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6 min read
Nurturing the next step for First Nations artists: Adam Briggs Foundation
Written by Dom O'DonnellPosted on 16/11/2022
Adam Briggs is a proud Yorta Yorta man of many talents. As one of Australia’s best-known hip-hop artists, the Indigenous rapper has extended his career by starting his own record label, Bad Apples, and pursuing acting and comedy writing, even authoring an award-winning children’s book.
“I was an unlikely candidate for all this,” says Briggs. “But I made it happen.”
In his latest display of making it happen, Briggs is supporting emerging First Nations artists through the recently established the Adam Briggs Foundation.
On its mission to ‘nurture First Nations excellence’ within the music industry, the Foundation recently announced the recipients of its first Barpirdhila grant round.
“Barpirdhila is a Yorta Yorta word for Morning Star,” explains Briggs. “More than fitting for what we as a not-for-profit are here to nurture: the next step.”
The Foundation is about creating a bridge between that beginning stage of an artist’s career and what comes next.
With funding support from Australian Communities Foundation and Sony Music Publishing, the inaugural grant round has seen over $65,000 distributed to 12 emerging First Nations artists including Radical Son, Alice Skye and Jada Weazel.
In this recent conversation, Briggs shared his reflections on starting his own foundation and how it’s tackling some of the barriers he encountered as an emerging artist himself, plus his thoughts on the role of arts funding and some advice for donors when it comes to supporting First Nations communities.
What’s the story behind the Adam Briggs Foundation? Why did you start your own Foundation?
I started the Foundation because I had a lot of people asking me for help and advice through the record label. We realised we needed something on the ground for artists who are just cutting their teeth or creating art more as a hobby. So at its heart, the Foundation is about creating a bridge between that beginning stage of an artist’s career and what comes next.
In all my early years of music, I got absolutely nothing in grants – [funders] couldn’t see the positivity in what I was doing because my music was so angry. They didn’t see the positivity – the fact I was an Indigenous kid out of country Victoria making my way in the music scene. And that’s a big part of why I started the Foundation too – I remember what it was like starting out and getting nothing.
Talking the language of academia is not a prerequisite for securing your grant.
Congratulations on the first Barpirdhila grant round. You mentioned in the announcement that you sought to remove barriers to the application process. Can you share more about how you approached the grant round?
What we were looking for was artists with new and good ideas with well thought-out approaches – really, it’s about having a vision. So we wanted to let artists know that punctuation and grammar and spelling and whatnot don’t matter. Talking the language of academia is not a prerequisite for securing your grant.
You know, I couldn’t speak that language when I first started. My music was A1 but I couldn’t cut through and get that financial support because I didn’t have the right words or the right budget. That’s why we invited artists to just submit a video and talk about what they want to do.
The other and maybe biggest barrier is actually just finding where the money is. You’ve got to be in the know. And so that’s something we were trying to address here – putting this opportunity in front of people, front and centre.
We’ve seen a drop in arts funding in Australia over the past few years with more resources directed to health, social services and emergency response in the context of the pandemic, rising inequality, and natural disasters in a changing climate. What is the role of arts funding in this context?
Art is everything. It has a huge role to play in tackling inequality.
As just one example – if you’re passionate about youth justice and addressing rates of recidivism, you need to support things that help keep kids out of the system. I think a lot of the time when people think about the arts, they think of a bong-smoking uni student living in a share house. I’ve been there. A lot of artists start there. You know, I was reading the other day about people complaining about [graffiti] taggers in Melbourne. What I say to that is: the people who make the art this city is renowned for, they started out doing this.
It’s about helping emerging art turn into something, not waiting for it to turn into something.
Taggers turning into world-renowned artists just shows the value of looking at the small things and seeing good ideas and artistry, and supporting them from the start. It’s about helping emerging art turn into something, not waiting for it to turn into something.
What advice do you have for donors when it comes to supporting First Nations communities?
My advice would be look in your backyard first and support what’s around you. I think a lot of people’s minds go further afield and they miss the opportunity to fund things that are happening right in their city. Give where you live and you can see the difference.
You only have to give a little bit to make a whole lot of difference.
When it comes to what to fund, my thing is always: give what you can and fund what you know, but don’t miss the smaller things.
Some of the artists we’ve supported just needed that little bit to get going. You only have to give a little bit to make a whole lot of difference.