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The Bay Islands future as a major destination for artists and the arts is assured, thanks to Division 5 Councillor Mark Edwards.

He has stunned the artistic community with his latest efforts

The councillor has ‘upped the ante’ and come up with council and sponsored funds to the tune of $230,000 for arts prizes and commissions over the next 18 months on the basis of $115,000 per year.

And more could follow as his ‘dream’ progresses.

He told a packed audience of island artists the good news in the surge in funding at a recent Girt by Sea announcement at the Macleay Island Arts Complex Inc.

It caught the island arts community by complete surprise.

Cr Edwards believes that the island arts and artists offer a ‘way forward’ for future growth and development on the islands.

“By giving a lead by way of incentives such as outlined here, it will act as a beacon to artists from around Australia and around the world.

“I believe more will come to work and, preferably, live here,” he told The Friendly Bay Islander.

The allocation of money has been part of infrastructure funding currently being signed off.

The $115,000 per year comes in multiple forms and involves prize money for the Girt by Sea Sculpture event to be held next May, and the addition of a new prize for artists.

The announced funding also includes $21,000 for a special commissioned sculpture that will be a ‘beacon’ to the island kayak sites that are being opened around the islands.

Seven of them will require these commissioned sculptures in the shape of a giant oar or paddle.

Cr Edwards explained the breakup of his funding package .

"The basis of the funding is to provide community art infrastructure to create an islands art trail.

“I have altered the dynamic to turn this into an acquisition prize festival that allows our artists to showcase their works and have them acquired by Council and installed in our parks.

Cr Edwards said there were some adjustments to the Girt by Sea event.

“Girt By Sea is normally part of the "4 Islands Festival”. However, due to timing issues for its staging, it will now be held on the 11th & 12th March 2017 then brought back as part of the 4 Islands Festival later that year.

He said that there are now ‘three elements’ to Girt By Sea.

“The first is the outdoor park sculpture acquisition prize which will rise from $32,000 to an outstanding $74,000, which makes it a standout Australian premier artistic event.

“There will be three $14,000 acquisition prizes and four $8000 prizes.’

In addition, a further $21,000 will be allocated to commission selected artists to make seven "paddle" sign/sculptures that will be installed on our foreshores marking the landing points for kayaks, canoes and small boats.

What particularly pleases him, however, is a major addition to the artistic concept that has, until now, focused on sculpture.

“I am pleased to further announce that a further $20,000 will be made available to acquire paintings in a competition format and those paintings will be displayed in Council-owned buildings such as our halls.

“This painting competition is exclusive to island residents only! Full details of this competition will be released shortly,” a pleased and proud Cr Mark Edwards said.

• At the announcement of the major funding for arts on the Bay Islands, Cr Mark Edwards with Belinda Sutliffe, Ted Upton, Suz Catton and Louise Gerrand.

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