Connect to The Creative Grid
Project Context: The Regional Arts Partnership Program
In 2017 Country Arts WA launched the pilot round of their bold new initiative, the Regional Arts Partnership Program with Creative Regions Program investment from The Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC).
There were three project clusters - Visual Arts, Contemporary Dance and Aboriginal Arts Centres.
Southern Forest Arts were engaged to manage the visual arts cluster. I was the Project Coordinator. The project was called ‘Connect to the Creative Grid’.
Project Overview: Connect to The Creative Grid
Connect to the Creative Grid was an unprecedented collaborative initiative empowering and enlivening regional WA communities through art.
Visual artists, arts professionals and arts organisations from 32 regional communities were engaged in an exciting series of interconnected and enriching arts experiences that enhanced social, cultural and economic vibrancy.
The eighteen month pilot program provided a collaborative, state-wide, sector-wide, approach to developing opportunities for community capacity building, community cohesion, exploration of cultural identity and transmission and celebration of regional arts achievement.
Over 60 Project Partners comprised of 50+ Regional Arts Organisations, 8 state-wide Peak Arts Service Organisations, 1 metro tertiary institution and 2 regional and national media partners collaboratively scoped, planned and resourced the eight projects undertaken during the Implementation Stage (January 2018 and June 2019).
The RAPP program was designed to shift the usual paradigm of relationships between artists, arts organisations and service providers.
The cluster included:
8 aboriginal art centres;
10 Local Government Authorities;
22 not for profit organisations.
This represented a diverse mix of arts organisations (from the well-resourced to the under-resourced), managing 29 exhibition venues and a broad variety of arts programs, based in 33 communities stretched across 2.64 million square kilometres of rural, regional and remote WA landscape.
Self-branded as 'The Creative Grid', the name referenced the interweaving of diverse elements into a strong, functional and dynamic unit. It symbolised the many points of arts activity occurring across the State's vast geography and the capacity for energy generation when inter-connected.
During four months of conversation, meetings, surveys & correspondence Creative Grid members and partners identified the following issues affecting the regional visual arts sector:
inadequate access to professional development;
weak profile of regional artists, arts organisations & activities in metropolitan Perth and beyond;
need for audience development;
desire to increase community engagement
Utilising the power of the collaborative to share resources & expertise, Connect to the Creative Grid addressed each of these issues in one or more of the project's nine activity pathways.
Project objectives were:
increased industry networking - through participation in collaborative activity;
increased access to professional skills, advice, resources - through mentorships, internships, workshops & resources that optimise industry standards;
increased, inclusive & diverse audiences - through advice, resources & training;
increased profile of regional artists/organisation/activities - through promotion of success stories & strategic artwork development & presentation;
increased choice, range and access to arts opportunities - through an audacious series of inter-connected events & activities.
capability & capacity building among individual artists & arts organisations;
increased sustainability of regional arts practice;
increased economic, social & cultural vibrancy for participating regional communities.
Establishment of a basic framework - The Exhibition Noticeboard - to facilitate the exchange of (locally produced) exhibitions between regional exhibition venues. Hosted on the the new GalleriesWest website (supported through the project).
ARTSPIRATION FILM SERIES
The profile of regional artists, arts professionals and arts organisations will be raised through the development and presentation of the Artspiration series of 14 stories showcasing regional arts excellence. Each ten minute vignette will be presented by a different artist, arts professional or arts organisation, from a range of locations across the state, encompassing diverse approaches to art making and art sharing. Produced by Albany film-makers, Greenman Media, the series will be screened nationally and available as online videos (through the Galleries West and Country Arts WA websites). Participating artists and organisations will also have license to use the material for their own promotion and advocacy purposes.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS
6 Professional Development workshops were held in 6 of WA’s 9 regions. Presented by industry experts each session explored a different approach to creating more sustainable and vibrant arts practices, arts organisations and communities. Each host organisation identified the focus issue for their region. Sessions included:
"Telling Our Stories" - Art on the Move & Museums Galleries WA (Albany);
"Amplifying Youth Audiences" - Propel Youth Arts (Geraldton & Esperance);
Regional arts practitioners benefited from project mentorships that connected emerging WA artists & arts professionals to the wisdom, skills and networks of Mentors. Mentorships included: 10 exhibition artist mentorships, 5 public art mentorships, 15 photography mentorships and 15 curator mentorships.
SOLO AND GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Activation of 22 venues in 22 regional communities through an extensive series of inter-connected exhibitions: 15 group and 15 solo exhibitions.
The group shows responded to an over-arching theme “The Alternative Archive’ developed by Lead Curator, Anna Louise Richardson. 13 interconnected regional shows were held in 2019. The survey exhibition is scheduled for May 2021 at the John Curtin gallery in Perth.
SMALL-SCALE PUBLIC ART INITIATIVES
The commissioning of a series of 8 small-scale public art projects - including murals, textile installations and digital projection development.
The active participation of an estimated 2000+ residents in 129+ artist talks, workshops, school incursions/excursions and other activities linked to the project’s exhibitions and public artworks across 24 regional communities.
20+ document templates were shared among Grid members. Many of these were from ArtsLaw.
STRENGTHENING THE REGIONAL ARTS NETWORK
Through weekly email and social media updates and online platforms that facilitated shared conversation among the network.
Participating regional communities, organisations & venues
Participating Peak Arts Organisations, tertiary institutions & media partners
Country Arts WA
Art on the Move
Disability and Disadvantage in the Arts (DADAA)
Aboriginal Arts Centre Hub of WA (AACHWA)
Propel Youth Arts
Museums Galleries Australia
Cockatoo Co-Lab (Melbourne)
Greenman Media Productions (Albany)
Several murals were created through the Creative Grid project. In Kambalda, Esperance, Carnamah, Bunbury and Beverley.