Some redundancies were likely as operational costs would need to be cut but the staffing structure had yet to be finalised and no decisions had been made, Mr French said.
“Over the next 18 months the program will be largely focused on Australian artists, companies and work and we will certainly be working with a reduced programming budget for the foreseeable future,” he said. “However within that framework, there is still a lot we can do to support adventurous contemporary work across artforms and to work effectively with our numerous artistic partners.
“This approach, coupled with a planned operational reorganisation and our work with commercial partners and clients is undertaken to ensure that we build resilience and are able to withstand any further COVID-19 impacts.
“We are very aware of how difficult the operating environment remains for arts companies, artists, and venues but now, thanks to the support of those who have rallied around us, have the opportunity to approach these challenges with some confidence.”
Administrator Phil Quinlan from KPMG Australia had recommended creditors accept the proposal to lift the venue out of administration, after receiving confirmation that a long-term lease had been secured from Create NSW along with five years of guaranteed funding.
Immediately after the vote, KPMG signed a deed of company arrangement and control of operations was returned to the Carriageworks’ board of directors headed by chair Cass O’Connor.
The result ends a push within government for the Sydney Opera House to take over operations of the Eveleigh Railway Yards venue.
Carriageworks was placed into voluntary administration on May 4 after COVID-19 shutdowns forced it to cancel or postpone all its major upcoming events, including the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia and its weekend markets.
The organisation’s major arts projects also went over budget in the year leading up to its collapse, including Nick Cave’s ambitious installation of thousands of found objects which ran over the summer of 2018/19, was popular and free to the public but cost Carriageworks $439,000 to stage.
Some of Sydney’s wealthiest benefactors stepped into the breach to pledge donations and loans of more than $1.6 million contingent on Carriageworks operating independently.
Board member Geoff Ainsworth and his wife Johanna Featherstone pledged $2 million through their philanthropic Oranges & Sardines Foundation, $1.8 million of that being a low-interest, short-term loan, upon which Carriageworks can drawdown for working capital.
The Neilson Foundation pledged $500,000 and the David Gonski Foundation $200,000, most of the latter to kick in over four years once Carriageworks has resumed trading.
The Crown Resorts Foundation and Packer Family Foundation promised Carriageworks a further $240,000 for the continuation of an arts education program.
Oranges & Sardines Foundation chair Johanna Featherstone said Carriageworks was home to a diverse community of creative and passionate voices, connected by the desire to make exciting experimental and inclusive art.
“In our current climate of uncertainty and concern, the Oranges & Sardines Foundation believes now, more than ever, the survival of Carriageworks offers hope, strength, and the inspiration of the arts to the people of Sydney.”
The board of Carriageworks Pty Ltd is expected to reconvene by the end of the month.
Ms O’Connor paid tribute to the work of the benefactors, Create NSW and arts minister Don Harwin in providing funding certainty and declared the future of the arts company secure.
“‘Never waste a good crisis’ is apt guidance for current times,” she said in a statement released shortly after the vote. “From the outset, we undertook to provide the NSW government with viable options for the future of Carriageworks the company, its activities, and its Redfern home.
“We have emerged from voluntary administration in the middle of a global pandemic with the longest lease in Carriageworks’ history and a revised business model which is better able to cope with the challenges evident all around us.”
Esther Anatolitis, executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, said it was vital that the renewed Carriageworks re-emerged as a beacon in upholding best practice, fostering artists’ careers, supporting sector development and inspiring audiences.
“At this critical time, we need companies like Carriageworks strong and sustainable.”
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Linda Morris is an arts and books writer at The Sydney Morning Herald