Dance workshops inspired by European settlement, an art trail along the Great Alpine Road and hot glue gun workshops for kids are part of an arts extravaganza in Victoria’s Gippsland region in May.
Image: Leap of Faith by Jo Caminiti, this year's Drouin Artist in Residence.
The annual Come & Play All of May initiative by Creative Gippsland, a cooperative venture between the region’s six councils, offers more than 90 visual art, theatre, dance and practical workshop experiences.
In addition, six artists will be in residence across East Gippsland, Wellington, Latrobe, South Gippsland, Baw Baw and Bass Coast shires, hosting a variety of events including workshops, talks, practical art sessions and more.
Gippsland offers a bounty of natural wonders including Wilson’s Promontory, Phillip Island and stunning beaches, but Karen Whitaker-Taylor, Cultural Development Coordinator with Baw Baw Shire Council, says Come & Play is designed to showcase the region’s increasingly rich artistic cred.
‘We are known for our natural features but we have regional galleries here in Morwell, Sale and Bairnsdale, with many smaller galleries dotted all over and a wonderful array of festivals artists and products that are not far away from Melbourne,’ she told ArtsHub.
‘We are also getting a change in the tree change and sea change population of creative people who are coming here to live, mostly because of the landscapes, which are so inspiring.’
Find out more about Come & Play All of May
Whitaker-Taylor says the Come & Play events are all community-driven by not-for-profit arts organisations, theatre companies and individual artists, among others. Events range from exhibitions of photography, porcelain and ceramics to a metalwork play session, and an Indigenous basketry talk to a slam poetry event.
‘The events are enormously varied,’ she says. ‘Come & Play is a celebration of the arts in our region.’
She says the month of May was chosen because it is shoulder season for tourism.
‘It’s not when people are heading down to the Prom to the beach or to East Gippsland for a beach holiday or the bush,’ she says. ‘It’s a time of year that is a little quieter and a good time to put in a celebration of the arts, whether it’s a day trip to Phillip Island or a longer stay in the east Gippsland region near the NSW border.’
Increasingly, the region is becoming known for hosting workshops and artist’s talks and tours, Whitaker-Taylor says, with people visiting Gippsland to learn directly from artists themselves.
The six artists in residence will host several public events as part of their participation in the annual program.
They are paired with a community group and stay in a town within their designated shire, sharing their experience and talents during May as well as creating a piece of work in response to the local environment.
The residency, valued at $3300, also includes a ‘public outcome’ which varies each year and according to the artist.
‘We have had films made – last year there was a filmmaker in Bass Coast who produced a short video – we have had workshops, exhibitions, all sorts,’ says Whitaker-Taylor.
‘It really depends on the genre of art that the chosen artist does and what the community and artists decide together. It is a very cooperative residency.’
This year’s successful entrants include Jo Caminiti, a multi-disciplinary artist with a background in teaching and environmental sustainability. She will work with the 'Friends of Drouin Trees' group in the township of Drouin to develop community projects to celebrate its remarkable giant trees.
“Each town or community group in each of the six shires will have something that they want to achieve,’ says Whitaker-Taylor.
‘In Baw Baw’s case it is an organisation designed to protect and raise the profile of Drouin’s trees – they have these enormous mature flowering gums and so it was natural that they wanted an environmental artist and that’s how Jo Caminiti was chosen.’
To see the full program of events for Come & Play All of May, visit the Creative Gippsland website. To find out more about the annual artist in residence program, visit the artists’ page on the website.