Even the red-eye flight from Perth on Sunday night wasn’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm after the Regional Arts Australia Conference in Kalgoorlie last month. What a fantastic gathering of arts minds and ideas. A huge congratulations go out to Jess Machin and her team from Country Arts WA and Regional Arts Australia for presenting such a great conference.
This was my fifth Regional Arts Australia national conference and I must say one of the best things about these events is getting to know new people and places. Kalgoorlie is a fascinating place, a desert capital with lots of stories and a landscape that makes you feel more Australian with each speck of dust gathering on your boots.
Whilst I talked a lot and listened even more and have lots of “take-home” ideas from my four days at the conference, there are two things that stood out for me.
Firstly, that a place for grass-roots arts people to network, learn and develop is extremely important, and for me, this was one of the strengths of the Kalgoorlie conference. Even if it has been said and done before, there are still conversations that need to happen. As new people take up the “arts baton” in their communities it is vital that they are supported. People need an opportunity to converse about what is happening in their world and exchange ideas relevant to their local context.
The second big “take-away” for me was the overwhelming desire for debate and dialogue about the arts on a national level. What is the new paradigm for arts in Australia – particularly for Community Arts and Cultural Development? How do we better understand the arts landscape as an ecology, not only on a national level but on an international level? Where are the new arts leaders coming from and what are the issues they will have to deal with? And most importantly, what does activism mean for the arts in contemporary Australian society?
So many questions!!
Over the next twelve months Creating Australia will be delving into some of these questions further. We have developed some interesting initiatives in 2015 that aim to continue this sort of dialogue and better equip the CACD sector to follow up the talking with actions. Nationally we are developing a program called “Sector Connectors” which will combine both skills development and provide a place for discussion about the new paradigm. There will be more information about these events available soon.