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Sarah Goffman and collaborative couple Sonia Leber and David Chesworth have been allocated the two $20,000 NAVA Visual Arts Fellowships for 2017. The fellowships are supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

The initiative is designed to support mid-career Australian artists.

When asked how to define what a being a mid-career artist means to her, Sonia Leber said, “David and I take a very youthful approach to being artists. We like to see ourselves as always emerging! For us it’s always about the journey and never arriving. We like to embrace the unknown.”

Sonia Leber & David Chesworth. Photo credit: Sergio Urbina, HIAP, Helsinki.

On a more serious note, Leber acknowledged the importance of funding opportunities for mid-career artists such as the NAVA Visual Arts Fellowships. “The financial thing is really important,” she said. “After you’ve been working as an artist for a number of years you realise after some decades that there are very few mid-career artists still working in Australia. And it’s quite shocking to think about how many artists have peeled off into other areas because they can’t sustain their practices.”

Sarah Goffman, who recently also won the National Still Life Award, echoed this sentiment. “I count myself lucky that I have been practising for so long, and have still gotten to realise so many shows on the smell of an oily rag,” she said. “But to actually get some remuneration is just fantastic!”

Leber and Chesworth will use the fellowship to undergo training in video colour grading and to develop a new work for their mid-career survey exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne, due to open in late July. Goffman is thrilled that she will now be able to employ some professional assistants as she works on a labour-intensive project for a solo show in April at 55 Sydenham Road in Sydney.

Sarah Goffman, Marrickville Opium Den, 2016, mixed media installation.

“Fellowships offer artists that rare and valuable space and time to find focus and rigour. NAVA is thrilled to support such exciting new work with thanks to the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund,” said Esther Anatolitis NAVA’s executive director.

“I am deeply impressed with the vision and scope of these projects and can’t wait to experience them.”

Or as Goffman puts it, “The fellowship does mean that I can realise and fulfil something and extend my practice in another form. And that’s living the dream really, I think: having someone believe in you and giving you the ability to facilitate something that otherwise would be unrealised.”

In addition to the two fellowships, NAVA awarded 2017 Australian Artists Grants to Tarik Ahlip, Taloi Havini, Shannon Lyons, and Kenny Pittock. MAFA (Melbourne Artists for Asylum Seekers) received a highly commended award. These five awards were funded by a donation from philanthropist Penelope Seidler AM.

Tracey Clement