Northern Beaches artists open their doors

Creative Open, a new annual event, invites you to discover the vitality of the Northern Beaches’ artistic community.

As Australia emerges slowly from the cocoon of COVID restrictions, the urge to connect, collaborate and celebrate has never been stronger – particularly amongst artists and performers, who were hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

What better time to open up studios and re-connect with artists? This winter, Northern Beaches Council is highlighting the wealth of talent in the area with Creative Open, an event with a difference. According to artist and musician Peta Morris, who will be performing at Creative Open as part of the improvisational trio Element, the timing is perfect. ‘A lot of the time, creative people tend to work independently, whether you’re working on your own or as a team. Creative Open is going to inspire some really interesting and unusual projects.’

Not only will there be performances, exhibitions and live music at Creative Open, but local makers of all kinds – from artists to designers to musicians to surfboard shapers – will open their doors to give a glimpse of their creative process through studio tours, workshops, pop-ups and talks. Over two weekends in winter (13-14 and 20-21 August), the community will come together to welcome both locals and visitors, who can enjoy the beauty of the region and the best of its food and drink.

As well as attracting audiences, Northern Beaches Council aims for Creative Open to be a platform for creatives and innovators to connect, to inspire and support one another. Morris’s Element performance will be a live soundscape responding to videos of the local environment by photographer and film-maker Cameron Bloom, the father of one of Element’s performers. (You might recognise Bloom’s name from the book Penguin Bloom, in which he documented his family’s extraordinary bond with an orphaned magpie.)

AJ Gough at work in their studio. Image: Kayapa Creative Studios.

Bloom’s videos will be projected onto the walls, ‘saturating me completely, so that I will immerse into them,’ said Morris. Also in play will be the projections of digital artist Tony Funiciello, whom Morris described as ‘a light sorcerer’. His work will tell a story of nature and our connection to it.

Element’s response to the projections will form the basis of an hour-long sound-based performance using percussion instruments, piano and – from Morris – vocals and singing bowls. She will also use an effects pedal to morph the sounds of her voice. In a former life, Morris worked in pop music, as a singer on Paul Mac albums and with her own improvisational band, but this is the first time she’s used an effects pedal on her voice. ‘I’m wondering what took me so long!’

In a way, Creative Open is a tribute, an acknowledgement of the integral role that the arts and artists play in our community. ‘Artists are an ignition point,’ said Morris. ‘They bring people together, they inspire people, they make people think outside the circle; they bring a sense of wonder and joy, particularly over the last two years. Creative Open is just going to be a great celebration after going through something that was really dark for many people. It’s going to shine a light!’ 

Creative Open runs over two weekends in August (Saturday 13 to Sunday 14, and Saturday 20 to Sunday 21); the full program will be released in July. Find out more about the festival.

Rose Mulready is a freelance writer and editor specialising in the arts.