Artists' Q and A

 

David Malouf AO

 Brett Dean

Kelli McCluskey

Lucy Guerin

Yaron Lifschitz

Lily Shearer

Nathan Stoneham

Richard Bell

Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature – David Malouf AO Q&A

1)  What does winning the award mean to you?

Winning the award is a great honour of course.  Writing is a very solitary business, we don’t meet the majority of our readers face to face, so any form of recognition that the writing out there has been received, and even more, valued, is a confirmation that what you have devoted so much of your life to has reached its goal and was worth doing.

2)  You have received acclaim for your writing of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and libretti – which is your favourite and which is harder?

I enjoy writing fiction and poetry almost equally, but what they demand is different in each case. The daily routine over a long period of fiction is hard; poetry is more occasional, more hit and miss, but requires closer concentration.  Its great pleasure is that once you have a good first draft you can go back and back to it for the sort of ‘fiddling’ that will get it as close as you can manage to ‘finished’.

3)  What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The surprise of winning the inaugural IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for in 1995, and later being named, in the US, as the Neustadt Laureat for 2000.  Mostly, in each case, because of the quality of the other short-listed writers and finding myself in such company.

4)  What are you working on now?

Poems mostly, for the reasons I give above.

5)  What else do you hope to achieve in your career?

I’m not sure I have any large hopes of this sort, except that so long as you are still writing you believe that something may simply appear that you are not expecting, could not have predicted, and could not know you had in you.

6)  You are admired and respected by both readers and critics, which is no easy task. Why do you think your writing is appreciated by both?

I’ve always written to please myself first.  I’ve been a reader all my life and have high demands, I think, of what I want to put ‘out there’ beside so much of what I have read and admired.  That may explain the critics.  But as a reader I also write, in terms of interest and feeling, I hope, and complexity, but also in directness of expression, for other readers like myself.  I’m always astonished, and delighted, that there are so many of us.

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Don Banks Music Award – Brett Dean Q&A

1)  What does winning the award mean to you?

An extremely moving sense of acknowledgement. To read through the names of previous winners was very humbling and to know that my name now stands amongst them is a very touching and proud moment.

2)  You have a number of residencies all over the world this year.  How do you juggle them all?  Any plans to return to Australia permanently soon?

A musician's life invariably contains an aspect of "travelling salesperson", so such juggling acts of engagements aren't uncommon; the challenge for me is to find enough quality quiet time to compose! Although Germany is my main base again at the moment, I'm back in Australia for longer periods each year depending on work engagements. This year I'm glad that it will be largely during the Australian spring and summer.

3)  What has been the highlight of your career so far?

If I had to pick one single career high, I'd have to say the momentous and at times tumultuous experience of writing my first opera, and seeing it through to opening night at the Sydney Opera House in 2010 was an unforgettable and rich experience. Above all the sense of collaboration, of working together was very special. I was so impressed - and moved - by the hard work of so many people that went into its realisation.

4)  What are you working on now?

Now I'm writing a second opera, to be premiered in the UK in June, 2017. Prior to that, and the reason I can't be in Sydney for the awards presentation, is a two-week residency with the Toronto Symphony in early March. And I'm really looking forward to projects with the Sydney Symphony this November as their Artist in Residence.

5)  What else do you hope to achieve in your career?

To feel that I am constantly growing and learning from project to project as both player and composer would continue to keep me sustained and very happy as an artist.

6)  You have had an amazing international career. How important is it for Australian art to be shown on the world stage and what have been the benefits?

I think Australians have a unique take on the world, a particular sense of humour, of thinking, of problem-solving. I think the role that our arts and artists can play on the world stage in expanding and deepening others' knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Australia cannot be overstated but is often underestimated. Just within the world of music, I know that Australian musicians enjoy an extraordinarily positive reputation amongst their international peers for their skill, work ethic and positive attitude and I'm sure the same can be said of many other artistic disciplines.

7)  Does being Australian influence your compositions?

Yes, I think it does in ways that I don't necessarily recognise consciously. People in Europe often comment on the "otherness" and "Australian-ness" of my music. It's hard to define what that might be, but it often seems linked to their visual images of our landscape with its distinctive natural environments that are so different from Europe. I find that response sometimes rather ironic given that I'm very much a city dweller and have been for most of my life, much of it in Europe in fact! But the particular aspects of Australian-ness that I spoke of in question 6 possibly shine through.

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Australia Council Emerging & Experimental Arts Award – Kelli McCluskey Q&A

1)  What does winning the award mean to you?

Well I’m extremely chuffed and honoured! I’m also really keen to point out that pvi collective is a small but very passionate group of artists, so I feel it is a win for the entire company and in recognition of all the amazing hard work and dedication they have shown to this art form over the past 18yrs. I also feel it’s a win for planet Perth. We have a wonderful community of experimental practitioners over here who generously support and nurture each other creatively and I find it a very inspiring warm-hearted community to be a part of.

2)  How would you describe your arts practice and what kind of art does pvi collective create?

Playful, political and unashamedly promiscuous in form :)

pvi collective create agitational, participatory artworks that are intent on the creative disruption of everyday life. Every artwork aims to affect audiences on a personal and political level and is geared towards instigating tiny revolutions. The company aims to make activists of our audiences by creating playfully subversive performances that invite genuine engagement, transforming our perceptions of space, cities and environment. Underpinning our work is our ultimate goal of saving the world through creative play and revolutionary fun.

3)  What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Working with some amazing local, national and international creative comrades who inspire, interrogate and never stop pushing the boundaries of what experimental arts is and can become. Collaboration is such a powerful and necessary part of how and why we make work.

What I’ve also loved is learning along the way the very real potential that participatory art practice has in terms of transforming the spaces we inhabit and providing a platform for artists and audiences to explore difficult subject matter and reclaim some sense of agency over the overwhelming chaos of modern life.

Also I have to say the look on audiences’ faces when they return from a pvi show all sweaty, empowered and smiling from having playfully misbehaved in some way. That just rocks my world.

4)  What are you working on now?

We are off to South Africa in June/July with 'tiny revolutions', a new collaborative lab platform that encourages artists and audiences to consider undertaking a tiny act of resistance against the everyday. We will be working with performance and visual artists at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein and then will show outcomes as part of Dr Ricardo Peach's amazing new festival Vrystaat. Super exciting!

5) What else do you hope to achieve in your career?

Revolution. Gotta aim high right?

6) Why do you think experimental arts are important?

It's a no brainer for me really. Experiments push things forward or allow a space for failure, which sometimes can be more important than getting it right in the first place, because that’s where the risk sits, right in that shady area of the unknown. Playing in that space takes guts and resilience and a very deep sense of commitment. I have so much respect for artists who gravitate to this space, it’s a difficult space to occupy, but soooo needed and undervalued in the bigger scheme of things.

7) What advice would you give young artists to have a sustainable career in experimental arts?

To know that there is always a way forward, whatever obstacles come flying at you. If you believe in what you are doing, then you’ll find a way.

Seek out creative comrades and like-minded thinkers, they will give you confidence and a sense of belonging. You are not alone.

Ask for help when you need to. The experimental arts community is a massive knowledge-base in this country, use it, then pay it forward.

It’s too easy to be critical, don’t fall into that trap.

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Australia Council Dance Award – Lucy Guerin Q&A

1) What does winning the award mean to you?

It is truly a great thrill and an honour to be recognised in this way. It’s an important moment to reflect on all those people who have influenced and inspired me; the dancers, producers, collaborators, presenters, board members, teachers, fellow choreographers, it’s a long list. And the amazing community of artists that I have been a part of over the last 30 years.

2) What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Highlights come in many forms. It’s always difficult to name a particular event. There are the success moments like choreographing for Mikhail Baryshnikov or presenting our work at Theatre de la Ville in Paris.

Establishing the company was definitely a highlight.

Once a dancer told me that he had considered giving up dancing and that seeing one of my works had been a turning point for him in deciding to continue.

Another time, I was in New York, where I lived for seven years in the early ‘90s and which was a very formative place and time for me. I left almost 20 years ago now, but I was visiting last year during the River to River Festival and I went to a performance party with a few friends and my stepson. As we walked in there was a beautiful drag queen singing the song, ‘Is That All There Is’. She saw me and immediately began to incorporate a verse into the song about going to a contemporary dance concert and seeing my work, followed by theinevitable, “Is That All There is’. I know that may not sound like a compliment but it was.

It’s not quite an answer to the question, but when I think back on everything, the highlight of all this for me has been working with the exciting, inspiring, kind and generous dancers that have collaborated with me on my dance pieces.

3) What are you working on now?

At the moment (17th Feb) I am in Lyon working on a piece for the Lyon Opera Ballet. In a few days we will travel to Paris to present it at Theatre de la Ville along with three other choreographers, Emanuel Gat, Tania Carvalho and William Forsythe (premiere 20th Feb).

I am then going on to Malmo Sweden to remount my work on Skånes Dansteater to be presented in a double bill with Australian choreographer, Antony Hamilton (premiere 19th March).

4) What else do you hope to achieve in your career?

I still have more works I want to make and collaborations I would like to pursue. I also want to continue to build our company into a really supportive centre for the work of young choreographers in Australia. I am interested in what models might work best to allow concentrated research and experimentation in dance and choreography. Australian dance is changing and we need to support the direction its taking.

5) Your company has had success internationally.  How important is it for Australian art to be shown on the world stage and what have been the benefits?

For me it was vitally important to live away from Australia and then to continue showing my work outside of Australia once I returned. On a personal level I wanted to be part of a global conversation and to continue the connections I had internationally that were so important in shaping my understanding of dance.

There are more structures for independent dancers and choreographers now, and although it’s a tough environment, there is a community of artists who support each other here in Australia. Many international choreographers come and give workshops and performances which keeps an international dialogue going. But it’s really interesting to show your work in other cultures. They receive it very differently to your home turf and you gain real insight into your work through taking it out of the context in which it was created.

6)  What advice would you give young dancers to enable them to have a sustainable career in the arts, particularly those who want to be independent?

I think initially it’s really important to try a lot of things and do a lot of work, whether that be your own work or with others.  You learn from every experience and the way you approach each one, even if it’s not your ultimate goal, defines the artist you will be.

It’s also crucial for young dancers to take responsibility for their knowledge; of the history of their art form, of other artists practising in the world today and other art forms. If you want to be a dancer, particularly in the independent scene, you need to be really engaged with current practices and thinking. Its not enough to just do what you’re told.

Finally, discovering and cultivating your individuality is very valuable to a young dancer or choreographer.

7)  Does being Australian influence your work, particularly for shows you take internationally, or do you change them a bit to suit different markets?

Of course being Australian influences my work, it is my only experience, and means that my work is inherently Australian. But I am not thinking about making work for any particular market when I am in the studio.

Often my works have some kind of text involved that can make them tricky to present internationally. This means thinking about whether the piece will work if the viewer doesn’t understand the text, or thinking of how to translate it in a way that doesn’t destroy the piece. Several of my works have improvised text from the dancers and these are the ones that are quite difficult to present to non-English speaking audiences. 

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Australia Council Theatre Award – Yaron Lifschitz Q&A

1)  What does winning the award mean to you?

It is a great honour – to follow Bruce Gladwin in anything is pretty special! To be given a national theatre award making work in a circus based in Brisbane is really a victory for those of us who dwell at the edges. Given that I have never done a handstand and can’t hang from a trapeze I think it is fair to say this award is really the property of the extraordinary artists and arts workers I have the privilege of working with.

2)  There seems to be a renaissance in sophisticated circus such as Circa. Why do you think that is?

It isn’t boring. It is actual, present and it is capable of moving audiences.

3)  What has been the highlight of your career so far?

This award is right up there. Opening at Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Barbican, Lyon and Brisbane Festival has been incredibly special. But mostly I am obsessed by the shows I’m working on right now.

4)  What are you working on now?

Loads! New creations include Horizons with Angels, Landscape with Monsters, When One Door Closes, Depart and Closer.

17-21 February - Wunderkammer, Chamaeleon Theater, Berlin.

23 February - Carnival of the Animals (excerpt), Australian Performing Arts Market, Brisbane.

4-5 March - Horizon with Angels, Bleach Festival, Gold Coast.

11-13 March -  Opus, Hong Kong Arts Festival.

17-20 March - Landscape With Monsters, Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong, NSW.

26 March - Carnival of the Animals, Harris Theater, Chicago.

2-3 April - Carnival of the Animals, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York.

6-23 April - When One Door Closes,   La Boite Theatre, Brisbane.

7 April – 12 June - Close Up, Underbelly Festival, London.

14 April - Carnival of the Animals, Chico Performances, California State University.

16-26 June – Depart, Lift Festival, London.

26-27 August - Il Ritorno, The Arts Centre, Gold Coast.

15-17 September - Carnival of the Animals, Canberra Theatre Centre.

28-30 September - Carnival of the Animals, Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong, NSW.

Show date specifics available at http://circa.org.au/shows/tour-dates/

5)  What else do you hope to achieve in your career?

I don’t really see it as a career – it is a calling and an obsession. I hope to continue working with great people, asking tough questions and challenging the limits of my creativity.

6)  Circa has successfully toured all over the world. How important is it for Australian art to be shown on the world stage and what have been the benefits?

It is tremendously important – being cultural ambassadors, generating employment for artists, creating a dialogue with other artists, connecting with audiences and experiencing the world. It is an immense honour to have the chance to tour around the world and show our art.

7)  Does being Australian influence your work, particularly for shows you take internationally, or do you change them a bit to suit different markets?

We keep them the same – they are a report on who we are, on the art we make together and on our art form. They form a link in the long, magnificent, diverse chain of Australian circus and physical performance and it is their difference from the other cultures and work out there that speaks to audiences. 

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Ros Bower Award – Lily Shearer Q&A

1)  What does winning the award mean to you?

Being the recipient of the prestigious Ros Bower Award for my recognition as an artist with a proven record of high achievement in community arts and cultural development makes me feel very humbled and honoured.  The fact that my peers selected me reinforces that being consistent and diligent over the past 30 plus years, to enable projects that showcase community cultural excellence in the arts is important to my peers, my colleagues, our company, Moogahlin Performing Arts, and most importantly that my communities I belong to, both rural and urban, are valued.  I feel valued because the work I do makes a difference and in most cases transforms people to reclaim cultural arts practices and instills cultural pride and integrity to people who participate, both young and old, First Peoples and non-First Peoples, and that’s rewarding to me.

2)  What has been the highlight of your career so far?

My career highlight thus far is the inaugural Festival of Baiame’s Ngunnhu (Creator’s Fish Traps) in Brewarrina, NSW in 2015.  Presented by Moogahlin Performing Arts, Baiame’s Ngunnhu is a three-year community cultural development project through the combination of ceremony and celebrations that promote Aboriginal-led social inclusion, artistic, civic and economic participation and a greater voice for the Aboriginal people of the region. The project included a series of community arts workshops over a two-month period leading up to and culminating in the creation of a multi-art form site specific performance promenade along the banks of the Barwon River. I believe it’s everyone’s dream, in the community arts and cultural development sector, to give back to your own community.  After 27 years of living off country, to return home to create a multi-arts festival around Biame’s Ngunnhu, share my knowledge, experience, artistic, managerial and producing skills was so rewarding.  I also learnt more about my myself and the cultural landscape I was born and grew up in, that enabled me to be open and flexible to change, active listening and receptive to community and artists needs, that empowers community and gives voice to an often oppressed and suppressed community.

3)  What are you working on now?

Festival of Baiame’s Ngunnhu 8-10 April 2016, Brewarrina, NSW.

NgAl Lo Wah Murraytula (Darug: Together We Share and Enjoy) 14 – 17 April 2016, is a Walk and cultural reclamation project that has been initiated by two esteemed Western Sydney Elders, Uncle Wes Marne (93years) and Aunty Edna Watson (75 years). It is a project to lay down their knowledge in the Western Sydney landscape with young people as participants and audience. In partnership with CuriousWorks and esteemed artists, Alicia Talbot, Amanda James and Maya Newell, CuriousWorks has been invited to assist with digital training and development of the young participants, in documenting this historic walk. This partnership begins a five-year project focused on supporting young people to unearth, explore and re-write the country of the Nepean basin - Darug country. This work happens in the spirit of collective impact, and it is loose and adaptive to community feedback from all partners, including Learning Ground, Bidwill, Mt Druitt Reconciliation Group, Emerton and Community Junction, serving the northwest of Penrith, Western Sydney.

Memory Project, Blacktown Arts Centre.  Company in Residence: Moogahlin Performing Arts. Lead Artists:  Lily Shearer, Ursula Yovich and Darren Bell.

WestWords Writer in Residence at Blacktown Arts Centre: Marley Nipps.

This project responds to the ageing community of First Peoples Elders in Blacktown and Greater Western Sydney.  Through the Arts Centre’s extensive work in the wider local area, it has become apparent that collectively their stories, wisdoms, and contributions to community have never been documented and mapped as a significant and interconnecting project.

We aim to open up conversations in memory around ancestral and modern history, looking at the tangible and intangible role of Elders vital in the continuum of First Peoples cultures. This phase is for the research and collation of stories, images or archival material that could contribute to the mapping of their lives. The project includes a music commission for Ursula Yovich to develop new material based on stories that come out of community visits.  The project will also engage local Aboriginal artist Darren Bell to create a series of photographic portraits, framing his subjects within their homes and localities. WestWords will support young and emerging writer, Marley Nipps, as Artist in Residence at Blacktown Arts Centre. The residency will focus on the material generated by the research led by me. Marleys’ role would be transcribing as well as interpreting interview material, with a view of developing the writing into education resource, audio works and other appropriate output decided on by the creative team.

Storytelling Masterclasses with Frederick Copperwaite & Lily Shearer, 24- 25 September 2016 Carriageworks, Eveleigh.

Broken Glass, Creative Development 4-21 October 2016 Blacktown Arts Centre, Blacktown.

This Fella, My Memory reading ARTLANDS – 27-30 October 2016, Regional Arts Australia Conference, Dubbo.

4)  What else do you hope to achieve in your career?

As a member of the Moogahlin Artistic Directorate I would like to achieve a strong and sustainable cultural enterprise that is Moogahlin Performing Arts, for the longevity of cultural and performing arts practitioners in NSW. Continue to provide a peer-based model utilising cultural principles to provide a supportive, yet critical and interrogative framework for the discussion and development of new work.  When necessary Moogahlin engages with artistic and cultural experts to further inform and encourage our practice that is guided by a clear artistic rationale and organisational plan. Elders, patrons, and other leaders of the theatre industry also observe and provide feedback at rehearsals as part of the supporting role they provide to Moogahlin. This ensures that our productions and presentations are thoroughly informed and culturally relevant.

As one of the three founding members of Moogahlin Performing Arts, we are invested in the making of new work that focuses on cultural empowerment and utilises art forms and technologies that serve our communities.  Our new work is essentially collaborative in nature and a member of the Moogahlin Artistic Directorate artistically drives each project. Our recent regional outreach activities are a natural progression for a company constantly inspired by cultural heritage and connection to country.

5)  Why should artists consider a career in Community Arts and Cultural Development?

Community Arts & Cultural Development is a practice that has been passed on from generation to generation from the beginning of time for First Peoples of this Great South Land, the concept is not new to us, only the naming of it.  It gives you a sound cultural foundation that enables a personal process of decolonising mind, body and spirit, and is instilled for some of us, whilst one is in the womb. This journey with Family, Elders, Community and Spirit Ancestors is rewarded with cultural integrity, belonging, and an embedded framework for process that is interconnected, intercultural and creates a ripple affect to communities you work with that generate cultural memory and practice.

6)  How important is art to Indigenous culture?

Art is integral to our being as First Peoples of Australia; it evolved BC (Before Cook) and continues to evolve AC (After Cook) to now in contemporary Australia. As an oral culture stories are very important - it teaches us morals, values, beliefs, survival and Lore.  For example, we can tell a story about a big old gum tree, the relationship we have with it - we can sing that tree, dance that tree, paint that tree.  Now in the 21st Century we can make a film, digital art, performances, installations about that tree. It’s knowing the difference between secular and sacred cultural arts practices that makes our work so exciting and interesting, as we are the oldest continuing living cultural group on this planet that are great storytellers, no matter what art form we choose.  First Peoples art informs our status, who we are and where we come from, which is a very unique position in this country of ours, and I believe we are the leaders of this.  Non-First Peoples have tried to be the leaders in our sector but we are reclaiming what is rightfully our cultural and intellectual property as they are our stories and we are demanding to be acknowledged and renumerated for this.  We still have a long way to go especially with the ‘GATE KEEPERS’ who are sometimes our own mob too, which saddens me. But that’s the difference between them and me; I’m about collective projects not individual projects, hence a sustaining career.

7)  What advice would you give young Indigenous artists to enable them to have a sustainable career in the arts?

Listen to your Elders, both in your family and in your community, even when you’ve heard that story 100 times before, listen again.  Be still and listen to the landscape as I believe, “beneath the concrete and the streets, the song sings on” (a line from “The Song Sings On” written by Leanne Tobin). Consult, consult, and consult to family, to community, to Elders, as it’s important to have the right information.  Build relationships with your community Elders and seniors (old people who don’t necessary know about culture), cultural and arts practitioners.  If you don’t know something or not sure if you’re doing the right thing, ask someone - an Elder, a peer, a mentor.  They may not know the answer but nine times out of 10 they will steer you in the right direction.  I swear by this in my practice and I’ve surrounded myself from an early age with a number of people a lot older than me, some who are Elders and cultural arts experts, some who are seniors just surviving or existing in community to ensure your work is contextualised in the history of this country. Most of all don’t be sucked into the ‘Pan Aboriginal’ experience, nor let the non-First Peoples be the expert just because they have a university degree in “Aboriginal Studies”, as they don’t have the lived first-hand experience and stories that go with this.  Be yourself, learn everyday, remember those who have come before you to enable a better journey for you.  Sometimes these people may even be your peers, and be sure to acknowledge and pay them respect.

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Kirk Robson Award - Nathan Stoneham Q&A

1)  What does winning the award mean to you?

Winning this award makes me feel like the work I do has been noticed and respected by my peers. It is encouraging to be awarded the Kirk Robson Award, and this encouragement is deeply appreciated, as I often doubt my ability to sustain a career in the area of community and cultural development arts, especially while being based in Queensland.
  This award means I can continue to practice this year, with less financial stress.
  The award demonstrates that community arts is valued, and that young artists in this field are also valued.
  I feel extremely thankful.

2)  What has been the highlight of your career so far?

My career has been very diverse – I have worked across the Asia Pacific region as an actor, facilitator, teacher, director, designer, musician and more.  It is difficult to pick a highlight.  Highlights in this field can take the form of a fleeting sense of satisfaction, a moment of human connection, an atmosphere of respect in a room, a glimpse of hope, a new friendship, or the smallest positive change.

Highlights that I can list easily include: 

  • My residency at the LGBT centre in Mongolia where I collaborated with local community members and activists to create a multi-site and socially-specific performance that gave an insight in to the life of LGBT*IAQ people in Ulaanbaatar while advocating for an anti-discrimination act. 
  • My year at Tonga Family Health Association working alongside a drama group who toured performances around the Kingdom educating communities about human and sexual rights.
  • The season of “Underground” in Seoul, where after three seasons of the show in Brisbane, we finally got to share this bi-lingual piece of music theatre with a Korean audience.

3)  What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on Inala Wangarra’s “Jarjum’s Life Museum”, a project engaging Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander children and their families.  After a creative workshop period at Minjerribah/Stradbroke Island and Hymba Yumba school, the project culminates in a contemporary museum exhibition showcasing the children’s lives.  It opens to the public as part of the Out Of The Box Festival at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in June 2016.

4)  What else do you hope to achieve in your career?

I’m not one to have a clear vision of what I want to achieve – I want to work and play in ways that offer rich relationships, rewarding experiences and opportunities to grow, share and create. I’m content staying open to possibilities and responding to the people and places that I work with. I’m interested in making art that sparks new friendships across perceived borders and barriers, so I want to achieve this as much as possible in my career, through creative forms whenever possible.

5)  Why do you think community arts are important?

Community arts are important because they bring people together and provide opportunities for people to connect.  Community Arts projects are about strengthening our relationships, listening, dreaming, stepping back, acknowledging, celebrating, slowing down, and caring. Community Arts are not a luxury, and unlike some other arts experiences, they’re not just for those who can afford to participate. A part of being human is to engage in community, to express ourselves, to learn about others and move forward collectively.  Community Arts responds to this human need.  In my opinion, good community arts projects aim for accessible, down to earth spaces where people can be their authentic selves, and have genuine interactions with others, without fear of discrimination, judgment, isolation or embarrassment.  I think these spaces are important to help us live lives with meaning, and I think these spaces are rare.

6)  Why should young artists consider a career in Community Arts and Cultural Development?

I’m not sure if young artists should consider a career in Community Arts and Cultural Development, but if they’re interested, they should definitely participate in community arts and cultural development as much as they possibly can afford to.  Given the current arts funding climate, I’m not sure how sustainable a career in this field is, and I am still wondering if I can continue with this type of practice.  Young artists may be the ones who re-invent how to enjoy a career in Community arts – their ideas and innovations may make it sustainable.

I’m always tempted by careers in other areas that also have positive social, cultural and environmental impacts, from teaching to town planning to environmental conservation.

Regardless of whether or not Community and Cultural Development can be a sustainable career, the work is hugely rewarding. On a personal level, feeling connected to people and playing a role in helping others connect is heart-warming. Beyond my own enjoyment, I believe that Community and Cultural Development practice done well, that is, with caution, rigour, consultation and a human rights based approach, can move us towards social justice.

7)  What advice would you give young artists trying to get into community arts?

Hopefully getting “into” Community Arts isn’t too difficult for anyone.  Community Artists should leave the door open when and however possible – when appropriate, and be dedicated to accommodating whoever is interested in contributing.  Unlike other art forms, I like to think that there’s no “big break” in community arts.  There are senior artists with skills, knowledge and understandings to share, as well as young artists with new ideas, new ways of working and new perspectives – to get into community arts, young artists can look to these people and join them.

I’m a young artist myself – but as I’m about to turn 30, I now have 10 years of experience in Community Arts.  My advice to younger artists would be to volunteer in the type of project you are interested in as much as you can, and while working on these projects, work on yourself too.  To be good at this type of work, I think you need to be sensitive to others, you need to be able to identify and manage your own emotions, you need to examine your own beliefs and be open to the fact that they may not be serving you well.  You need to reflect on your journey, your privilege, and how your views have been constructed, and whose voice was silenced as your belief system was built?  You need to practice letting go, unlearning, mindfulness.  All these skills can develop alongside your facilitation skills, artistic skills and project management skills. A mentor or supervisor can assist with this journey.  I’m still working on all of these things and probably will be forever.

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 Australia Council Visual Arts Award – Richard Bell Q&A

1)  What does winning the award mean to you?

That some other people had to lose.

2)  You are known for your provocative works.  Do you think it’s every artists’ job to provoke and challenge and can that be entertaining?

No, and yes.

3) What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I’ve had a few, but I’m too busy to contemplate which is the most significant.

4) What are you working on now?

The presentation of Embassy as part of the 20th Biennale of Sydney.  This will be located directly out the front of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

I’ve also been working on a big sculpture project for Sonsbeek 2016 in Arnhem, Netherlands opening in June.

5) What else do you hope to achieve in your career?

A lot more.

6) You have had great success overseas. How important is it for Indigenous art to be shown on the world stage and what are the benefits?

I wouldn’t know, I don’t make Indigenous art. But, the reason I make art is to tell what I reckon are the important stories and significant events that have happened during my lifetime in the hope that they would be recorded and exhibited nationally and internationally, so that white Australia can’t just rewrite our history again.

7) You are seen by many as an activist. If you weren’t an artist, what other career would you have pursued?

A revolutionary billionaire. 

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