The creditor's report into the Biennale of Australian Art (BOAA) has revealed in detail the extent of money owed to artists and businesses following the event being put into liquidation in March.
The Courier has examined the report prepared by Worrells Solvency & Forensic Accountants, which costs the debts of BOAA at $473,686, with $460,269 of that money unsecured.
The extent of debt ranges from just over $92,000 owed to long-established Ballarat printing firm Waller & Chester to amounts in the hundreds of dollars.
Boxwars, which provided the cardboard reenactment of the Eureka Rebellion at the Eureka Centre during BOAA, is owed a significant amount, while another printer in Ballarat, Revolution Print, has a shortfall in payment of over $20,000. Signarama are owed over $26,000, while a number of artists and performers are owed amounts over $10,000.
An earlier financial report provided to The Courier puts BOAA liabilities at over $714,000 in October 2018.
Waller & Chester principal Alastair Chester told The Courier while the financial loss will affect his business, he was taking a much bigger-picture and conciliatory approach to the collapse of BOAA.
"As the largest creditor from BOAA, the first thing one thinks of is themself, and in my situation how this is affecting my business and my family financially - but there is a much bigger picture," Mr Chester said.
"Julie Collins and Derek John undertook a massive project to create an exhibition that was going to be a feather in Ballarat's cap and enhance us as a city for years to come.
I hope in the wash-up the groundwork laid by BOAA is not lost forever, and the hard work and financial loss of many people amounts to somethingAlastair Chester, Waller and Chester printers
"I am extremely disappointed, not just from my financial viewpoint, but for those that have only seen this festival for the financial mess that remains, and attempt to destroy and discredit.
"Many people put a lot of man-hours into this exhibition without financial remuneration, for all of the good intent associated with Julie and Derek's brainchild.
"Unfortunately many people have been very quick to walk away and criticise BOAA. I hope in the wash-up the groundwork laid by BOAA is not lost forever, and the hard work and financial loss of many people amounts to something," Mr Chester said.
The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) met with a group of artists owed money by BOAA in Ballarat yesterday morning.
NAVA claims the 32 artists it is supporting are owed a total of $117,950 and the executive director of the advocacy, policy and action body for Australian contemporary arts, Esther Anatolitis, is less placatory about the management and execution of the arts event than Alastair Chester.
"We have individual visual artists owed more than the average Australian artist earns in an entire year," Ms Anatolitis said.
"These are really devastating circumstances. It should never have come to this, of course; and now that it has come to administration everyone is concerned the outcome is not going to be great. Artists are feeling a bit disappointed in themselves that they haven't spoken publicly earlier because they were so concerned about maintaining great relationships."
Ms Anatolitis says the while the liquidators have not been in touch with NAVA as they are not creditors, NAVA has seen the financial statement issued by them for BOAA and it is troubling.
"It's a very awful situation," Ms Anatolitis told The Courier.
"The artists should be the top priority and not the afterthought, but of course once a company goes into administration, the administrators will tick through a list. I think there are questions around what personal and business assets can be realised; whether the board had directors and officers liability insurance, for example."
In response, BOAA director Julie Collins disputed the claims made by NAVA and some of the artists regarding the amounts owed. She says BOAA and its directors have had personal support from participating artists in their attempts to make payment.
The bigger questions remain to be answered about BOAA: how it will affect the arts community as a whole and Ballarat's arts festival reputation specifically and how an event which was seemingly structurally and financially untested was funded by both the state government and the City of Ballarat with public money.
Questions also remain about its due diligence; whether a full, professional examination of its proposed success was adequate; the role of BOAA's board and CEO; and whether the broader community in the city will again come forward to support a home-made project of the kind BOAA had set itself to be.
As one artist who had work displayed in the event said to The Courier, "How will we go about healing this, about making people take artists seriously in Ballarat again? F**k knows. We're at a crossroads now."