Lady Potter with Iain Grandage, Emerging Composer Fellow, at Music Commissions awards in 2009.

In the late 1980s, Sir Ian Potter was keen to explore new avenues and approaches for his philanthropy, particularly opportunities in the Arts.

In the past, the Foundation had made grants to young artists through the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, but this was no longer possible after the organisation was placed in provisional liquidation in 1991. As The Ian Potter Foundation’s tax status means that it cannot make grants to individuals, Sir Ian wanted to find a way to continue this commitment to supporting talented artists. In October 1992 the deed was signed to establish The Ian Potter Cultural Trust, with the specific remit of making grants to individual artists. The first grants were approved in June 1993.

In considering the best way to support Australian artists, and contribute to the growth and development of the Australian arts sector as a whole, it was decided that the Cultural Trust would focus on provision of international travel grants to assist artists’ professional development. This would help to ensure that the Australian arts scene was connected to the international arts world and our most talented individuals would have the opportunity to benefit from the stimulation, extension and knowledge gained from exposure to international opportunities.

Since 1993, over 1,750 artists have been supported through the Trust’s grants, travelling to the far reaches of the globe to undertake a cornucopia of projects, encompassing almost every art form. Over the past 20 years, the list of past grantees has grown to become a virtual who’s who of the Australian arts scene.

In 1999, the Cultural Trust also revived a program of significant Arts commissions that was originally run through The Ian Potter Foundation. In the 1980s, the Foundation had supported a series of sculpture commissions in association with The Arts Foundation. In 1999, this idea was revived in the form of The Ian Potter Music Commissions, which ran biennially for a decade, supporting the creation of major works by Australian composers. After a successful 10 years, and investment of over $500,000 to 23 composers, the Music Commissions concluded and made way for the introduction of The Ian Potter Moving Image Commission in June 2012.

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