The Sidney Myer Creative Fellowships recognise the talent and exceptional courage of artists. This year, they have been awarded to nine extraordinary artists from across Australia in dance, performance, visual arts, writing, theatre and music. Each Fellow is awarded an unrestricted tax-free grant of $160,000 over a two-year period.

The 2021 Fellows are: Ali Murphy-Oates (NSW), cultural leadership; Ellen van Neerven (Qld), literature; Eric Avery (NSW), music/dance; Hoda Afshar (Vic), photography; Jo Lloyd (Vic), dance, Joel Ma (Vic), music, multi-artform; Latai Taumoepeau (NSW), performance art; Michele Lee (Vic), theatre writing; Tjungkara Ken (SA), painting.

Since 2011, the Sidney Myer Creative Fellowships have awarded over $14.5 million to 91 artists. The  Fellowships recognise talent and exceptional courage in mid-career artists. Unfettered in their artistic excellence, each Sidney Myer Creative Fellow has shown a passionate commitment to their practice and an unyielding belief in how the arts can make a positive contribution to community.

‘’I am delighted to make this year’s announcement and extend my congratulations to these wonderful artists. It’s been a testing time for so many of us, and our arts community has suffered significantly with so many performances, exhibitions and theatres closed. It is my hope that this support will make a meaningful difference to support those that help us make sense of this world,’’ says Andrew Myer AM, Chair, National Peer Review Panel for the 2021 Fellows.

The Fellowships are not tied to any specific outcome, instead, they provide an income over a two-year period, allowing each Fellow time to reflect and develop aspects of their creative practice without financial pressure. This uniquely places the Fellows and their artistic endeavours at the centre of the Fellowships.

‘’Receiving the fellowship is a huge recognition for me from the arts community,’’ says writer Ellen van Neerven. ‘’I feel very grateful. My life has changed because of this opportunity. With this support I can work and think in the long-term rather than short-term, and put my creative practice at the forefront of my output. I find it difficult to juggle immersive writing projects with the freelance work required to keep myself financially afloat. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to write for two years. I am humbled to be part of a community of current and previous Fellows.’’

For photographer Hoda Afshar, ‘’I am incredibly honoured and grateful to receive this significant fellowship and recognition. It is an acknowledgment of the courage and effort that I have often had to show in order to make the work that I do. I feel both humbled and truly overwhelmed. This fellowship provides me both the opportunity to take on even more ambitious projects for the next few years, as well as the encouragement to do so with renewed effort. It is also a great honour to be placed in such distinguished ranks as those of the past recipients – many of whom have been great inspirations to me at one time or another, and all of whom have made important contributions to the arts, culture and life of Australia. Again, I am deeply honoured by this recognition and looking forward to the new possibilities that lie ahead.’’

For Eric Avery, “courage means to keep developing and making art no matter what happens in your life. I started learning violin later than most (12 years of age on a toy violin), and have worked very hard to develop my playing skills. I remember playing in orchestras as a teenager and being a black child; I might not have appreciated it then, but this took a lot of courage.”

The national Peer Review Panel for the 2021 Fellows included: Andrew Myer AM (Chair), Amos Gebhardt, Helen Marcou AM, Jeff Khan, Jo Dyer, Josh Wright and Tarun Nagesh.

To be nominated for a Fellowship, artists and thought leaders must be within seven and fifteen years into their creative practice and meet two criteria: outstanding talent and exceptional professional courage. They are open to artists and arts managers across the spectrum of the arts and humanities.

Find out more information on the 2021 Fellows and see previous recipients

Image credits: Steve Akala, Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore, Victoria Scott