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Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts


Umbrella Studio is a leading creative generator, driving opportunities and fair remuneration for artists and arts workers to sustain the arts ecology in North Queensland. It aims to:

  • increase recognition nationally and internationally as a leading contemporary visual arts organisation in Australia
  • inspire, engage and impact with high quality arts programming and communications, engaging practitioners and audiences, promoting North Queensland contemporary art
  • be an entrepreneur and activate new approaches to arts business, increasing self-generated revenue, diversifying income streams and being financially stable
  • observe good governance - support and enhance functionality with best practice models for governance, finance, and operations.


2014 (Orgs Fund) & 2014-15 (VACS)


Townsville, Cairns, Capalaba, Ipswich, Teneriffe, Chinchilla, Moranbah, Brisbane, Singapore, New York, Wales

Arts Queensland contribution

$150,000 – Organisations Fund (2014 calendar year)

$52,451 – VACS (2014-15 financial year)

$19,739 – Arts Leverage Funding (2015)

Key stats

  • 23 exhibitions in gallery
  • 18,295 exhibition visits
  • 23 publications
  • 10 tours to 11 locations
  • 4 international projects
  • 66 conferences, training/information sessions
  • 6 artist residencies


  • Indigenous Artist Engagement: Umbrella is building a reputation for supporting Indigenous artists with $35,397 paid to Indigenous artists for art sales and an exhibition at the Australian High Commission and a public art commission at James Cook University Campus both in Singapore. Successful Queensland tours of two exhibitions Ngapa - Kai Kai and Land and Sea to 11 locations.
  • Great Art: Compact Prints 2014: 176 artists participating from 14 countries. A new website developed for the Compact Prints and its history showcased every artwork exhibited since 2002. Collaboration with JCU students on project evaluation led to students measuring satisfaction and impact, while business students created legal agreements, economic data and marketing initiatives.
  • Sound management: Although grant funding reduced, Umbrella ended the year in profit due to forward planning, reducing expenses and increased generated revenue through doubling art sales.  Private donations increased and were enhanced this year through Arts Queensland’s Arts Leverage Fund.
  • VACS: VACS projects generated revenue for artists from sales; showcased North Queensland artists’ works to overseas audiences, facilitated collaborations and strengthened the reputation of Umbrella Studio and the artists. These opportunities increased skills and opened new markets for local artists.

Learnings and reflections

In an effort to generate revenue, Umbrella reduced exhibition space available for artists to exhibit and increased permanent displays of works printed at Umbrella for sale. This tactic did not work; substantial income from the permanent gallery was not generated and visitor numbers decreased.

In 2014 artists accessed the entire gallery space for their solo or small group exhibitions, instead of three separate exhibitions for three separate artists/groups. This resulted in a reduction in exhibition visits because fewer artists exhibited. These operational activities were considered and new policies implemented to ensure stronger outcomes.

Learnings from 2014 reveal artwork exhibited outside of Townsville is appreciated and marketable.  Touring exhibitions, exchanges and external art displays are a critical component to sustaining operations.

Fundraising was successful in 2014 due to the ongoing activities of the Board, the Arts Leverage Fund offering the opportunity to promote matched funds and a supportive membership who generously donated and attended fundraising events.

Wanderlust to Manhattan risks were minimised using clear logistical plans and ongoing communication between stakeholders including galleries and artists.

Public programs and workshops helped develop new skills and engage young artists.

Contact for further information


Phone: 07 4772 7109




Case studies feature image: Challenging audiences: Dancers: Variations in Blue by Ranier Schluter: winner Strand Ephemera 2013

Banner image: detail from Yellow Belly by Shirley Collins