ICYMI: The week's top news in the arts

Art Gallery of NSW set to reopen, Merrigong Theatre Company announces $40,000 in new opportunities and funding, $10,000 Windmill Trust Scholarship now open, plus more news.
ICYMI: The week's top news in the arts

Rosemary Laing, swanfires, John and Kathy’s auto services, 2002-04. Image courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries

Staff writer

Friday 22 May, 2020


Art Gallery of New South Wales set to reopen

The Art Gallery of NSW will soon reopen. Image supplied.

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand has delivered an inspirational message about the power of art in addition to announcing the re-opening date of AGNSW – 1st June.


Brand said in a statement: ’Art is a source of hope and inspiration in difficult times and we’ve been very much looking forward to welcoming everyone back to the Gallery, again providing access for all to our State’s exceptional art collection and special exhibitions. Sharing the vision of artists is at the heart of all that we do, and we’re excited to be re-connecting artists and audience on-site.

'The gallery’s plans for reopening will focus on the health and safety of staff working in the Gallery in the Domain and also those working at the Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills with a plan currently being put in place to ensure that the museum is a safe place to visit, and a safe workplace for staff and volunteers.

'This includes limiting visitor numbers while COVID restrictions are in place through timed ticketing and ensuring social distancing and recommended hygiene measures. Visitors will be able to enjoy, free of charge, our collection galleries, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN and three exhibitions: Shadow Catchers and Under the Stars (which both opened briefly before we closed on 23 March), and Some Mysterious Process, a new exhibition I have curated.'

$1.3 million to support regional WA arts and cultural organisations 

Regional Arts WA has launched the delivery of $1.35 million over 2.5 years to support regional Western Australian arts and cultural organisations.

The Regional Arts Sector Investment (RASI) program will sustain employment in regional communities through investment in arts organisations that employ professional artists and arts workers.  

The RASI program is funded by the State Government, including funding from the Regional Arts and Culture Investment Program delivering almost $20 million over four years in funding to regional Western Australia. Regional Arts WA invites eligible organisations to apply for up to $60,000 per annum to support their operational expenses and employment costs over 2.5 years. Successful applicants will provide significant services to regional communities through the delivery of arts and cultural programs.

They will contribute to the employment and development of regional artists and deliver activities that respond to the uniqueness and diversity of the communities they serve. They will also be able to demonstrate substantial financial investment from their local government and/or other sources.

Regional organisations intending to apply are invited to one of two information sessions with Independent Facilitator of the program, Annette Carmichael:

  • Dates: 12.30pm, Friday 22 May OR 10.00am, Wednesday 27 May.
  • To RSVP: Please email Annette on acarmichael@regionalartswa.org.au for Zoom link.

Applications to the RASI program are now open and will close 5pm Friday 31 July 2020.

Merrigong Theatre Company announces more than $40,000 in new opportunities  

Merrigong Theatre Company has announced a major reboot of its MERRIGONGX Artists’ Program for 2020, with an injection of more than $40,000 into new projects from independent artists.

This reboot comes in response to the COVID-19 crisis and its effect on employment opportunities for performing artists, and is in addition to a range of existing independent artist support that was originally announced for MERRIGONGX in 2020.

Merrigong’s Artistic Director / CEO Simon Hinton said: 'Our industry has been very badly affected by the closure of our venues, and while we are very grateful that the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program has allowed Merrigong to keep all of our permanent staff (albeit reduced to 80% of their normal hours) and many of our casual operational staff employed, most artists in our industry do not qualify for this assistance due to the project nature of their employment.'

'That has made it a priority for us as a company to rethink our current programs to ensure that artists are still working to make exciting new theatre, and connecting with community and audiences in our region and beyond,' he said.

The reboot allows for a repurposing of funds, to be allocated across three areas including: New commissioned theatre works, callout for new independent artist projects, and MERRIGONGX digital tasters.

Visit Merrigong Theatre Company to find out more information on funding and new opportunities.

Vale Janet Beckhouse (1955 – 2020)

Postwar and contemporary artist Janet Beckhouse has passed away. Her work was featured in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Newcastle Art Gallery, Shepparton Regional Art Gallery and Bendigo Art Gallery.

A statement from Ali Yeldham, Director, Arthouse Gallery where Beckhouse's work was represented, read: We were deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of Janet Beckhouse over the weekend. Today we honour the extraordinary talent and contribution that Janet has made to Australian Contemporary Art and Ceramics.

‘Her intricate and whimsical hand-built ceramics reflected her intuitive responses to the universal elements of life, death, and human relationships. Her wonderful spirit and vivacious character will be greatly missed by us all at Arthouse Gallery.’

Beckhouse had been working towards a showcase at the  gallery and we would like to dedicate this upcoming show to her loving memory. 


HOTA announces commissioning opportunity for 20 artists in 2021

A view from the south of the new HOTA gallery. Image supplied.

Contemporary cultural precinct HOTA, Home of the Arts, will commission up to 20 Australian artists to create a suite of new work for a major exhibition to be presented in its new AUD$60.5 million gallery opening in 2021.

Australian artists who can demonstrate a significant link to the Gold Coast region, are invited to submit ideas for indoor and outdoor works, ranging from medium to large-scale installations, video projections, free-standing sculptures and performance, to all types of outdoor art that can be executed well in the environment.

The HOTA Gallery is currently under construction within HOTA precinct on the Gold Coast in Queensland and once completed will be the largest public gallery outside a capital city in Australia. The gallery will become the permanent home for the $32 million City Collection, whilst presenting international exhibitions exclusive to Australia alongside an ongoing commitment to present the work of local artists.

The newly commissioned works will be presented in an exhibition within the new HOTA Gallery’s AAA rated 1000m2 main exhibition space, with some works to be placed around the surrounding parklands.

Criena Gehrke, Chief Executive Officer of HOTA, Home of the Arts said: ‘Now more than ever, we have a deep responsibility to support Australian artists. We have fast-tracked this $100,000 commissioning opportunity for up to 20 artists to create new works for the inaugural HOTA Gallery program in 2021. Artists are at the core of our vision; without artists there is no home of the arts.’

As well as receiving an artist fee for their participation in the exhibition, successful applicants will have the support from the HOTA Gallery Curatorial and Exhibitions teams to develop, prepare, and install their work.

Visit the gallery to find out more and apply for the HOTA Artist open call.

The deadline for applications is Friday 19 June. Successful applicants will be notified by Friday 3 July.

$10,000 Windmill Trust Scholarship for Regional NSW Artists now open for applications

The Windmill Trust, together with the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA), has announced that the 2020 Windmill Trust Scholarship for Regional NSW Artists worth $10,000 has opened for applications.  

‘NSW regional artists have faced overwhelming challenges with drought and more recently bushfires and COVID 19 affecting their practices and opportunities, making the Windmill Trust Scholarship now more important than ever,’ said Windmill Management Committee representative Julia Harvey.

'This is a unique opportunity for artists in regional areas throughout New South Wales and could be a career-changing move for many artists.'

This award opens up avenues for regional artists seeking to further their professional development, exhibition opportunities or deepen research with a $10,000 scholarship.

Visit NAVA to apply for the 2020 Windmill Trust Scholarship for Regional NSW Artists. For further information visit Windmill Trust.

Shoalhaven announces artist callout. In mid-2019, Soda Arts were engaged by Shoalhaven Regional Gallery to curate an exhibition that looks at artistic responses to extreme weather in Australian art. 

The result is WONDER + DREAD: Art in the Land of Weather Extremes, due to open at Shoalhaven Regional Gallery in Nowra in December 2020. The current artist list includes many high profile artists working today, alongside prolific artists of the past. This includes Susan Norrie, Nicole Monks, Rosemary Laing, Cameron Robbins, Lloyd Rees, William Strutt, Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Max Dupain, Arthur Boyd and Michael Riley among others.  

WONDER + DREAD is vital for the Shoalhaven community. Not only will it bring artworks of significance from state and national collections to the  region, but it will also help process the trauma and continue the healing required following the devastating summer of 2019/20. During the bushfires of 19/20, more than three-quarters of the Shoalhaven landmass was burnt by the Currowan and associated fires. This was closely followed by flooding in February 2020, and a global pandemic in March 2020. 

Now Shoalhaven Regional Gallery is commissioning new work from an artist with a connection to the South Coast that responds to the extreme weather events of 2019/20. The focus of the commission is community impact and a platform to process the emotional fall-out from recent events. 

The call for proposals closes next Friday 22 May 2020. Feel free to get in touch with any questions. 

Download the proposal form for Shoalhaven Regional Gallery 

Download the Submission Form for Shoalhaven Regional Gallery


Adelaide Festival goes online with bite size offering

Adelaide Cabaret Festival is going digital with a curated collection of bite-sized clips from artists who were set to feature in the 2020 program.

Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2020: Bite-Sized & Home Delivered will highlight cabaret favourites sharing pithy posts - stories, snippets and songs recorded from artists whilst they’ve been in isolation and responding to the classic line from Life Is A Cabaret: ‘What Good Is Sitting Alone In Your Room?’

Cabaret devotees can tune in on social media from June 5-20, where video memories will be posted, including photos from the cabaret archives as we tip our bowler hats to 20 years of Adelaide Festival Centre’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival. 

Adelaide Festival Centre CEO & Artistic Director Douglas Gautier said: 'There has never been a more important time to bring solace through the arts and we hope Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s new online offering will uplift audiences by delivering what we do best.

'We are delighted to be supporting local, national and international artists and arts workers during this difficult time by providing a platform for cabaret to shine.'

Tune in for bite-sized cabaret from 6pm Friday, June 5.  To watch Bite-Sized & Home Delivered visit Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s Facebook page.

Clips will be posted from June 5-7 and then at 6pm every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday until June 20.


Chau Chak Wing Museum announces opening exhibitions

The University of Sydney has released details of seven exhibitions that will launch when Australia's newest museum opens its doors later this year.

The exhibition will bring together the university’s natural history, ethnography, science, visual arts, decorative arts, historic photography and antiquities collections. These collections were previously exhibited in the Nicholson Museum, Macleay Museum and the University Art Gallery. The new museum also introduces a temporary exhibition space to the University.

'With two thousand square metres of exhibition space, we will have triple the area available to display our diverse and internationally significant collections,' museum Director David Ellis said.

'This will allow us to display three percent of our total collections at any one time.

'We will be in the fortunate position of having 18 exhibitions that open with the museum. The exhibitions we have announced to date highlight the depth and breadth of our Nicholson collection, Macleay collection and the University Art Collection.'

'The Chau Chak Wing Museum also brings a new, 400 square metre, temporary exhibition space to the University. We are thrilled to be working with the northeast Arnhem Land Art Centres to bring the stories of the learnings and knowledge of the Yolŋgu people to Sydney.'

Contemporary Indigenous Fashion survey to open at Bendigo Art Gallery

Australia’s first major survey of contemporary Indigenous Australian textiles and fashion – Piinpi - will now open in September 2020, postponed from the original opening date of July due to national COVID-19 gallery closures.

Featuring the work of Indigenous artists and designers from the inner city to remote desert art centres, including works by Grace Lillian Lee, Lyn-Al Young, Maree Clarke, Lisa Waup plus more, Piinpi will shine a light on Australia’s leading First Nations creatives, and a design movement that is fast becoming a recognised fashion phenomenon. 

The word Piinpi is an expression that Kanichi Thampanyu (First Nations people from the East Cape York Peninsula) use to describe changes in the landscape across time and space. 

'The rapidly expanding Indigenous fashion and textile industry is one of the freshest and most exciting fashion movements of our time. It is a celebration of Indigenous art, history and culture, showcased through the lens of contemporary fashion and design,” said Jessica Bridgfoot, Director of the Bendigo Art Gallery. 

'We want to ensure that as many people as possible can see this important exhibition, so postponing opening of Piinpi until September is the safest option at this stage,' she said. 

'We are also monitoring travel guidelines for First Nations artists and communities from regional and remote locations closely, and hope they will be able to celebrate the exhibition if not in September, at a later date.  We will also ensure people in remote communities can access the exhibition through digital platforms and online tours and other programs.'

Rockhampton Art Gallery helps artists navigate a business world

Rockhampton Art Gallery is one of several organisations partnering with The Ideas Distillery on CQ Shopfront, an exciting regionally-based project, designed to help artists navigate the world of business.

An initiative of the Bundaberg-based The Ideas Distillery, CQ Shopfront aims to prove that creatives can successfully live and work regionally.

The project will enable artists from the broader Central Queensland area – from the Fraser coast in the south, to Mackay in the north and west to Banana Shire – to gain access to skills development, mentoring and networking opportunities to help them refine their creations, in terms of market need, branding, packaging and more, to build commercially viable creative products.

Rockhampton Art Gallery is backing the project by providing links with local artists, workshop and residency venues, and a desire to stock refined products in the future Rockhampton Museum of Art.

The first in a series of 'Business for Creatives' Zoom workshops and webinars for local artists are being held in May and June. Topics include What is Merchandise, Product Planning, Sales Strategy, Introduction to Business Planning, Target Audience Profiling and more.

Workshops are being conducted by artist and Flying Arts tutor Katie Whyte and Shelley Pisani from The Ideas Distillery.

Rockhampton Regional Council Community Services Portfolio Spokesperson Councillor Drew Wickerson encouraged local artists to take part in the webinars and workshops.

'We have a lot of talented artists in our Region, and projects such as CQ Shopfront will go a long way to nurturing our creatives as they each develop their arts practice so it becomes commercially viable.'

'In turn this will show that it is possible to be a successful artist and live in regional Queensland,' he said.
Visit the ideasdistillery to book a zoom workshop or webinar


Resilience shines through in productive pandemic phase

While COVID may have derailed some plans for JUTE Theatre Company the organisation has drawn on 28 years of experience and resilience to develop its business model while introducing two online development programs for young emerging playwrights and performers during the time of the pandemic.

Citing the closure of 2020 season opener, To Kill A Cassowary on 17 March as one of the most difficult decisions she has ever had to make, JUTE’s Artistic Director and CEO Suellen Maunder remains upbeat.

'JUTE, like many creative organisations the world over, has really shown its true colours and rallied to the cause.

'While continuing to employ our full-time staff throughout the pandemic lockdown has been fundamental, we have used the time to not only create, but work on what we already have with new ways of doing things.

'One such area has been the implementation of a CRM or customer relationship management tool along with the launch online of two creative development programs,' Maunder said.

The organisation’s free, Connect and Create program for JUTE Actors Studio students has secured participation by six students who will each be required to write a two-minute monologue that will then be refined over a series of online learning sessions with Creative Producer and Dramaturg Kathryn Ash.

A second online program launched was JUTE’s virtual interactive Write Sparks writing program for young writers. This program is supported by the Regional Arts Service Network, NQ and in collaboration with Townsville based Full Throttle Theatre Company.

Over a period of three weekends, the young writers will be learning the craft of writing for performance from Kathryn Ash.  During this time, they will put these new skills to use by crafting a short script.  We will then undertake a virtual play reading of the works developed, read by actors from Townsville and Cairns.  

COVID-19 brings the curtain down on Bran Nue Dae 30th anniversary tour

A new production of the Indigenous musical Bran Nue Dae, presented by The Opera Conference, that was scheduled for a full national tour in 2020 to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary, is the latest production to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The cancellation follows the announcement last month that the return Sydney season, along with the Melbourne and Geelong seasons were not proceeding.

As the restrictions on mass gatherings are extended, it is no longer possible to stage the remaining legs of the tour in Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide scheduled for July and August.

After successful seasons in Parramatta and Perth earlier in the year, the show was still due to run as part of Opera Queensland’s 2020 program at QPAC in late July before moving to Canberra Theatre Centre for Opera Australia on 11 August and then on to Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide for State Opera of South Australia from 19 August.

Opera Australia CEO Rory Jeffes, speaking on behalf of The Opera Conference, thanked those involved in the Bran Nue Dae project.

Written by the late Jimmy Chi in collaboration with the band Kuckles, Bran Nue Dae was recognised as the world’s first Aboriginal stage musical when it premiered to great acclaim in 1990.

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