Ballarat born singer Jacqueline Dark has been nominated for Australian Artist of the Year in Limelight Magazine's People's Choice Awards after yet another hard year for the arts industry.
Ms Dark is one of 20 artists shortlisted for the award and one of three to come from the Ballarat area, alongside Benjamin Northey and Genevieve Lacey.
Ms Dark said it was a 'beautiful time' to celebrate artists when many have not been able to perform for much of the last 18 months and the situation has become even more uncertain recently.
"It's nice to have this kind of little ray of light where we're celebrating people and doing something positive, it's really nice," she said.
"All the singers and performers I'm talking to and even backstage people, everyone's just saying it's really hard to start preparing for a show and throwing your soul into it when it might just be cancelled, so that's a big thing at the moment.
"Before, it was that immediate loss of income and loss of a role you might have worked your whole life to get, but now it's also 'am I going to throw 100 per cent of my soul into this when things just keep getting cancelled and all of that work and passion goes down the drain?'. It's really heartbreaking."
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Ms Dark said it was hard for many performers to be considered 'inessential' for much of the last 18 months.
"The arts is one of the industries that really has missed out on any kind of funding because it is often casual employment. We're not employed by a company, so a lot of the arts industry fell through all the gaps of any of the emergency funding so it's been tough on top of tough," she said.
While many artists have struggled to find work throughout the pandemic, some even having to leave the industry, Ms Dark has been fortunate to be able to perform intermittently.
She has performed with Pinchgut Opera, wrote and performed two solo cabaret shows and performed a show written by electro-pop musician Paul Mac at the Sydney Festival.
However, Ms Dark was also due to perform in the ballet Anna Karenina in Melbourne when the show was postponed shortly before opening night due to lockdowns.
"We had rehearsed it up and were cancelled just before opening night, so that was heartbreaking. Everyone had thrown their souls into it and it was cancelled just before it opened. You can't describe the devastation of how that feels," she said.
"We actually did opening night anyway. We were only allowed to have 70 people, so they couldn't afford to open it to the public... but we just did it for family and really special folk and put it on anyway, just for us."
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