By Luke Voogt

After more than two decades working in Hong Kong as an international producer, Sharon Seyd knows a thing or two about making a living from arts.

Seyd worked on major projects across Asia from the cosmopolitan artistic heart of Hong Kong, collaborating with American network NBC, the BBC and other large organisations.

“I was used to often getting half a million dollars from a corporation to get a large-scale project up and running in a few months,” she told the Independent.

She and her colleague from Pop-Up Art, Karen Corr, plan to share their experience in a free online ArtsAction workshop series coming to Geelong for the first time next month.

Pop-Up Art began after Seyd moved back to Melbourne and read an amusing but hard-hitting critique on a Castlemaine festival from a local artist in 2008.

“We have a weekender in Castlemaine,” she explained.

“He wrote this very funny short piece on how everyone comes to Castlemaine for the prawns – Castlemaine is inland so the prawns aren’t even from there – and wine, and a free postcard photo at his gallery.

“They’re not buying his art, they’re just spending their money on prawns and wine. This was the seedling of Pop-Up Art.”

Over the past decade Pop-Up Art has organised events featuring hundreds of regional Victorian artists, including an exhibition of works hanging at stations along the Bendigo line.

But Seyd soon realised the local arts environment was very different to Hong Kong.

“I had this reality check that there’s very little money in the arts here in Australia,” she said.

“Even pre-COVID-19 there was not enough money to sustain our core organisations. Over the past decade we’ve slowly tried to chip away at how we can make a difference.”

Seyd and Corr, who has background in organising community groups, gradually turned their attention more toward helping individual artists “translate” their passion into a career path.

“It’s making the most of the little funding that’s out there, but also growing the voice of the creative sector,” Seyd said.

“Creatives deserve to have financially-viable careers, rather than having to keep their day job as a waiter, an administrator or whatever it may be.”

Seyd, who teaches arts business at the Victorian College of the Arts and Deakin University, plans to teach local creatives how to be market-ready, work together effectively and build digital communities.

She and Corr will collaborate with eight councils in one hit through the ArtsAction professional development program, which has had more than 200 creatives sign up so far in the week since registrations opened.

The program includes a six-part email resource pack and weekly Zoom workshops, with the first of four online series beginning next month.