A report in three parts on The Centre for Regional Arts Practice (C.R.A.P.) event, ‘Are you a regional artist?’ that was part of the 2012 RANGE Festival of Art and Culture Program in Toowoomba.
THE EVENT: THE INVITATION
THE EVENT: ARE YOU A REGIONAL ARTIST?
The Centre for Regional Arts Practice (C.R.A.P.) event, ‘Are you a regional artist?’ was part of the 2012 RANGE festival of art and culture program. Attended by around thirty people from around the Toowoomba region the event took place at The GRID Creative Space. The stimulus for the event and its question is the series of artist survey books produced by C.R.A.P. founders Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart. Topics covered by the books deal with the issues and the experiences that Cooper and Spowart have encountered over many years as regional artists. Surveys have included the following titles:
#1 How do you know you are a regional artist?
#2 How do you now you operate a regional arts business?
#3 The inland regional artist & the beach
#4 The regional artist & climate change
#5 The regional artist & the global financial crisis
#6 Swine flu & the regional artist
#7 Air travel & the regional artist
#8 Flooding in your studio
#9 Summer lethargy
#10 The New Zealand regional artist
#11 Vote 1: Campaign for Regional Artists for Government Election (Democracy)
#12 Checklist of the signs that extractive mining has taken over your regional community.
Six local artists accepted the invitation to participate in the event by selecting an artist survey book that related to their experiences and interests. They were asked to select passages from the books and to present and discuss these passages. The artists were: Jack Atley, Fancy Darling, John Elliott, Elysha Gould, Sue Lostroh and Jennifer Wright (Summers) [Their Bios are included at the end of this post]. The panel members represent a diversity of practice which is both grounded by necessity but also enjoying the freedom to be at the creative edge. Toowoomba’s art community is evolving and seemingly drawing strength from a fertile montage of place-minded inclusivity along with strident individualism. This motivated group of young and established artists are moving with the changing landscape of the regional arts practice, while also operating within a national and global perspective.
The Artist Survey books acted as catalyst and provocateurs for discussion and commentary where each panellist presented a particular slant on their selected subject. What followed was an organic and freeform forum with a range of questions being discussed and challenged. The main theme—the identity crisis of regional artist—was at the centre; the responses made the issues relevant, while evoking alternative considerations.
After each panellist’s segment the audience was asked if the ‘agreed’ or ‘disagreed’ with the proposition put by each Artists Survey Book. Some topics, such as ‘Do you need a week at the beach’, ‘How do you know if you operate a regional business’ and ‘The signs that mining has taken over your community’ resulted in a majority support. Other books, including ‘Would you agree that regional artists should form their own political party’ and ‘The regional artist and the GFC’, drew out other interesting issues and challenges from the panel and attendees beyond just the questions posed in the books. In some cases the outcome of the discussion recognised that all artists, from both regions and city, connect with the same issues. Perhaps all artists are regional?
From the panellist’s responses it became evident that regional artists are passionate people with opinions and ideas about their practice and the opportunities and challenges of regional life. The feedback coming from some of the informal discussions at the end of the night suggested there could be future events of this nature in the form of a forum.
From our perspective this event brought not just consensus, but importantly new perspectives on, and challenges to, what it means to be a regional artist living and working on The RANGE.
Finally, attendees were invited to contribute comments to the forthcoming Artists Survey Book ‘The regional artist and the artists run initiative’. This edition of the C.R.A.P. Artist Survey book is intended to celebrate the role of the ARI in the Toowoomba region—the main theme of The RANGE festival.
Until next time …
Elysha Gould is a visual artist and Co-Director and founder of the artist-run initiative, made.Creative Space Toowoomba, and is the current Supervisor of Dogwood Crossing arts and cultural facility in Miles, Queensland. Living as an expatriate during the formative years of her childhood and having a mixed Australian-Japanese heritage, Elysha’s work incorporates paper cutting, drawing and installation that explore ideas of cross-cultural representations, contrasting contexts in the imagery and materials she uses.
Sue Lostroh was born in Sydney half a century ago, now living and working in Toowoomba, Sue has various tertiary qualifications the latest being a Master of Philosophy. However her study now happens on her travels to various destinations including Hong Kong, Singapore, England, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and France so far. Sue trained as a printmaker but turned into an installation artist who has held a handful of solo exhibitions, her favourite was at the National Sculpture Forum in Canberra: Adopt my language say your farewells. She has participated in over 35 group shows in a variety of locations including Singapore, Brisbane and Toowoomba and she has a wide and varied arts experience curating about 80 exhibitions since 1987, she was an associate lecturer in visual arts and has supervised various research projects for students undertaking professional development. Sue is associated with the production, editing or authoring of over 30 exhibition catalogues, 4 CDs and a considerable number of education kits, didactics and exhibition support material. Sue currently coordinates the education programmes at TRAG
John Elliott is a writer/photographer based in Toowoomba and works all over Australia. He has 14 books to his credit, had his own exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and 25 works are in the NPG Collection. John’s work centres around his love of the bush and interest in people’s stories.
Jennifer Wright (Summers) is President at Arts Council Toowoomba and advocate for the establishment of Toowoomba Regional Council’s Public Art Policy. She enjoys building respectful relationships between councillors, businesses, artists and local community members. Jennifer was chosen to win the 2012 Regional Arts Australia award because she has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the Arts in her community, her commitment to creating opportunity for regional artists and tireless volunteering work.
Fancy Darling is an artist and musician. Painting and drawing the erotic, classically trained pianist singer songwriter and cabaret performer, currently a resident artist at the grid.
Jack Atley: punk rock warlord.
POST EVENT FEEDBACK
The RANGE Festival Director Ashley Bunter and Arts Council Toowoomba President Jennifer Wright (Summers) comment on the Centre for Regional Arts Practice event at the GRID..FROM ASHLEIGH BUNTER: The event was a novel, performative/responsive format that drew together a diverse range of respected panelists of varied opinions. It was wonderful to see the room full of many esteemed artists, educators, writers and the general public. Through the provocations read from several issues of Doug Spowart and Victoria Cooper’s (The Centre for Regional Arts Practice) series of artists books the panelists and audience mused what it is to be a regional artist and ultimately whether where one lives affects ones arts practice.It is lovely thing, perhaps semi-unique to regional centres, that young and old, creatives, bureaucrats and the general public from all walks can sit together and sustain formal, thought provoking discussion.I loved listening to Jennifer Wright (Summers) link her book ‘The Regional Artist and Mining’ to the work of Glenn Albrecht who I heard speak recently at the Regional Arts Australian National Conference about the ways that environmental concerns impact people mentally. He provided a language to describe the phenomena which Jennifer shared and employed.The audience and panelists will now pose new questions for ‘The Regional Artist and The Artist Run Space.’After all the discussion, I left feeling positive that I feel such a strong connection to my hometown and the engaged people around me but also that with the freedom afforded by travel and the internet, we are all more than just where we live..Thanks Ashleigh.ANDA COMMENT FROM JENNIFER WRIGHT (SUMMERS): A belated response to Jack’s statement that since so many people have lost jobs in manufacturing in Toowoomba, mining offers the best option for employment of these people.
Mining jobs are temporary and have negative impacts with binge drinking, lack of affordable housing for any nearby community.Why can’t we continue to make Toowoomba a centre of creativity, art and culture? Arts Council Toowoomba’s mission statement has always been to create a vibrant and creative centre for the arts.
At the Regional Arts Australia Conference in Golwa Federal Minister Simon Crean detailed how collaborative creative projects and partnerships had renewed regional cities including Newcastle and Townsville.Mark Robinson from Arts Council UK talked about making adaptive resilience real. When industries declined, regional UK communities remained creatively productive and adapted with integrity to changing circumstances with lasting benefit for the community.
The Edinburgh Festival, now 21 years old is part of Edinburgh’s strength and creates formal and informal social capital and feeds the community.Transformations have started here and I hope we can ride the momentum of the RANGE festival. Festivals become part of the environment, attracting the touring dollar.
We can support a growing ecology and develop critical discussion in the region if we stick together, continue to adapt, gain confidence but not wreck the community,
if we remain open, dynamic and creative we position ourselves behind a creative industry that has longevity stands to benefit the community in a long term sustainable way.Jennifer Wright (Summers)Thanks Jennifer