On the evening of Wednesday March 6, Flying Arts Alliance, members of the Flying Arts community gathered to celebrate the Brisbane opening of Wanderlust, the touring exhibition of the Queensland Regional Art Awards 2018.
Flying Arts hosted the Brisbane opening event in the beautiful theatre of the Judith Wright Centre for contemporary Arts.
Starting with a truly artistic Acknowledgement of Country by our neighbours here at the Judith Wright Centre, the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts, the evening’s formal proceedings included an array of speakers and special guests.
See the full details of the Brisbane opening event below.
Flying Arts Alliance Chair Prof John O’Toole Wanderlust Exhibition Opening Address
My name is John O’Toole, and as Chair of Flying Arts Alliance, I’m proud to welcome you to the first Launch of the eighth Queensland Regional Art Awards Exhibition for 2018, Wanderlust.
First of all, in honour of the care and curatorship, past and present, of both this country and all its arts by the original owners and their elders of the land ……. I invite the talented young performers of our neighbours here at the Judy, the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA) – who may be more familiar with Flying bodies than Flying paintings – to give us a truly artistic Acknowledgment of Country.
Thank you ACPA and Lily Smith, Boysie Power and Mat Ederer.
Now our own welcome.
First, to our special guests: For the first time, to the Hon. Dr Christian Rowan, Shadow Minister for the Arts and another portfolio relevant for today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Affairs, who has for some time been taking an interest in our activities. There’s a nice symmetry and complementary here – our launch of this award last year was honoured by the presence of the current Minister for the Arts, the Hon Leeanne Enoch, herself an Aboriginal woman, and another supporter of Flying Arts… which only goes to demonstrate the customary heart-warming agreement and co-operation between the political parties… well, at least you see eye to eye on us, anyway!
Also for the first time, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor John Cole, representing one of our longest and most faithful partners and sponsors, the University of Southern Queensland, who, we understand, like his University is a passionate advocate for rural and regional access and achievement… which is of course what these awards are all about. It was exactly one year ago that USQ was hosting these Awards in Toowoomba.
Next, and happily not for the first time, we welcome back Rebecca Atkinson, Executive Director of our largest sponsor, Arts Queensland.
Minister Enoch has sent her regretful apologies today, along with three of our other fans, all of them staunch launchers of Flying Arts events: our Patron, Governor of Queensland The Hon. Paul de Jersey, and our Cultural Patrons Tim and Gina Fairfax. However, we’re delighted to acknowledge Bec Ninness, representing the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.
Now, just as important, welcome to all of you, our real patrons: the artists – including some of the prize-winners and selected touring artists here tonight – the art-lovers, our sponsors and backers, the big-hearted 500 Club members, the helpers, the arty spouses and partners, and the general artistic hangers-on that, between you all, keep Flying Arts flying.
Wanderlust is the eighth annual Queensland Regional Art Awards. I mentioned at the start that this was its first Launch. That’s because the Queensland Regional Art Awards should logically be launched regionally – which we did for the first time last year in Toowoomba. This year we’ve taken a bolder step, to Winton – for you city-dwellers, it is on the map, up there in the middle, a bit over half-way up on the left – and it’s also the home of a previous and current prize-winner, Karen Stephens. We’re also going there to help celebrate the great new Art Gallery that has risen from the ashes of their terrible 2015 fire – and its new curator, Karen herself, is hosting us. We realise that this might be a bit of an ask for our Brisbane friends and patrons, so today, we’ve laid on this one for you… though if you find this evening totally inspiring, we’d love to see you up at Winton too! That launch is on July 27 (Kerryanne, just check to see if anyone’s writing that date in their diary!).
I’ll actually start this launch by mentioning another inspiring local initiative, a kind of a new rival to ourselves, that shows the power and popularity of our art form here in Queensland. Last week I was privileged to go to the inaugural launch of the Brisbane Portrait Prize, something else for Queensland to be proud of – though it has a bit of a way to go before it challenges the Archibalds – it just needs a few good national rows, lawsuits and artists’ stoushes to kick it along, probably. So some of you might like to enter that prize, but remember, not before you’ve done your entry for this year’s Queensland Regional Art awards: appropriately title State of Diversity.
Which brings us back to last year’s award, and tonight’s wondrous exhibition, hanging all around us. That couldn’t happen, year after year and growing all the time, without two things.
The first is our Panel of judges, who gallantly and tirelessly undertake the gargantuan and often difficult and thankless task of deciding which of the nearly two hundred entries get hung in the exhibition, and which of those are exceptional enough for an award. A great vote of thanks to Bruce Heiser (who is with us tonight) and to Bianca Acimovic and Renai Grace (who send their apologies) for their exquisite judgment. For the works you like – talk to Bruce… If there are any you don’t like, they were probably Bianca or Renai’s choice.
Second are the generous somebodies who provide these so-well-deserved awards, and give you artists the incentive to keep enriching Queensland’s visual landscape. This year, along with those staunch 500 Club members, we have a new sponsor of the main prize, the illustrious legal firm of Holding Redlich… I always think it’s especially good to get the lawyers on your side – unless you are the Victorian police of course, when it can cause problems…
John Introduces Damien Bourke
So here to preface our major award winner – as her warm-up band if you like – is the generous hand that provided her prize, Mr Damien Bourke, partner at Holding Redlich, himself a recent Flying Arts regular. As well as an art lover, Damien has a glittering cv as a lawyer specialising in tax matters, so stellar that I can tell you if I get into strife over tax, I’d want him on my side rather than against me! Damien.
Speaker: Damien Bourke
John Introduces QRAA 2018 Winner Erin Dunne
Thanks Damien. And just as sincere thanks to all the other equally generous and faithful donors of this year’s prizes – many of them are here, this is audience participation time, and they are all worth a clap, please: The Geoff Booth Foundation, David Crombie Family Trust, Jane de Boer, Ironlak, State Library of Queensland The Edge, The Johnson Art Series Hotel, USQ Artsworx, and all our own family with big hearts and deep pockets, the Flying Arts 500 Club. And a final big hand for the curators, Bruce, Bianca and Renai.
The prizewinners’ names are in the program, and a number of them are here tonight. For many of them it was or would have been really hard to get here, because Brisbane is so remote and rural. But luckily, as Winton is so Central, they will all be there!
And now to speak on behalf of the prize-winners, this year’s Major Prize-winner. A successful artist and former prize-winner too, with a current exhibition at Rockhampton Art Gallery, and also one of our own workshop leaders: Erin Dunne.
Award Acceptance Speech from Erin Dunne
Good evening everyone. I’d like to talk about three things tonight:
Firstly, a little bit about who I am and where I’m from, and how that has influenced the work that I made for 2018 QRAA;
Secondly, the importance of the advocacy and support that Flying Arts provides regional artists with;
And finally, I’d like to briefly outline the positive influences that winning the 2018 QRAA have had on my art practice and to explain the importance of the award to me.
Who I am and where I’m from, and how that has influenced the work that I made for 2018 QRAA
I was born in Rockhampton and raised on my parents’ cattle property, which was located two hours South West of Rockhampton. Because there was no primary school nearby, I was home by Mum, who was an artist and art teacher until Grade 3, when we could muster up enough kids for a school bus run into nearby town, Duaringa. This commenced the beginning of a long relationship with the town, which I’ll elaborate on in a moment. After finising primary school in Duaringa, I attended boarding school in Rockhampton, and then moved to Brisbane in 2018 to commence tertiary studies.
This time ten years ago, I was just commencing my Bachelor of Fine Art at Queensland Collage of Art. I have a distinct memory from this time of a lecturer saying that of our hundred-strong cohort, in ten years only a handful would be practicing. At first when I heard this I was shocked, but in the next breath I decided I was determined to be one of them, and all of the decisions that I made from that point on were intended to bring me closer to my goal of working full time as an artist. I did a couple of artist residencies at schools and loved it, so went back to uni and did my Grad. Dip. Ed and then taught for three years full time while making work and exhibiting. At the end of 2017 I resigned, and here I am, ten years on from first hearing that statistic, working as a full time artist. It still feels surreal to have won the 2018 QRAA but it has provided wonderful validation that I made the right decision to pursue this course.
My work for the award, entitled “Destination Duaringa”, was the result of a two-day trip revisiting the town. When I read that the theme was Wanderlust, I wanted to pick a place that wasn’t an obvious tourist destination, and the time seemed right to revisit Duaringa and see what had changed since my childhood. As it turns out, not much had changed, but it felt different returning as an adult. It feels like the town that time forgot and exploring it was so interesting, like encountering a living museum.
My Dad came in to Duaringa to run some errands and so became my tour guide by chance. As we drove around, he recounted lots of lovely stories about longstanding family connections with places around town. There are no Trip Advisor ratings for tourist attractions in Duaringa, so we visited places like the dump, the airstrip, the now defunct saleyards and the cemetery. The book finishes with drawings of graves of ancestors that I was surprised to find in the cemetery. People looked at me strangely as I walked around town taking photographs, presumeably because they were not used to Duaringa being viewed as worthy of documenting. We tend to take familiar things for granted, and one of my aims as an artist is to help people take notice of the specialness of the everyday that I notice in these places. I made the decision to combine the imagery into a concertina format referencing a travel journal to highlight the point that anywhere can be a worthwhile travel destination, including small regional places off the beaten track, if people approach it with a sense of curiosity and wonder.
Having talked about who I am and where I’m from and how this influenced my work, I’d like to talk now about the importance of the work that Flying Arts does, and in particular, the QRAA.
The statistic that I mentioned earlier about the high attrition rate of visual artists speaks to the universally challenging nature of sustaining a visual arts practice long term. On top of those challenges, regional artists face additional difficulties gaining access to important cultural collections and institutions, high quality professional development and career development opportunities, and establishing and maintaining professional networks, to name a few. (As a side note, there are also some uniquely wonderful benefits of practicing as an artist in the regions as well!)
Flying Arts is cognizant of these challenges and works tirelessly to advocate for and offer support to regional artists, and my practice has benefitted enormously from taking advantage of these opportunities. To provide just one example among many, winning the Annie Tan Memorial Watercolour Prize in 2017 QRAA was one of the things that gave me the confidence to resign from teaching and pursue my practice full time.
The QRAA is an incredibly important platform for regional artists that allows us to have our work judged by industry experts in a rigorous process, to then tour if selected and thereby reaching new audiences, and if you’re lucky enough to win a prize, that financial support enables further development of your practice. You can see just how important this opportunity is for us – there’s nothing else like it. Entering the award has also helped me to build a supportive professional network of other regional artists around the state, including Rebecca Lewis, who is here tonight and won the Edge Digital Art Award, who travelled all the way up to Rockhampton from Ipswich for the opening of my solo exhibition over the weekend.
On behalf of all of the regional artists in this exhibition and present this evening, I’d like to sincerely thank all of the Flying Arts team for their dedication to ensuring that regional art and artists are seen, supported and valued.
John Introduces Flying Arts CEO Kerryanne Farrer
Thanks Erin. It’s always a joy to listen to an artist talking from the heart, so do take time, if you haven’t yet, to linger and take a long look at Erin’s wonderfully evocative Destination Duaringa – and like me you will wonder how simple line drawings can actually make you smell the small town smells and feel that sticky central Queensland heat so vividly.
And of course, we are surrounded by thirty other artworks that pluck at our heartstrings. And as an extra bonus, we are also launching our 2019 members Judith Wright Centre Plinth Exhibition of Tiny Art works – out there in the foyer. Most of the artworks in both exhibitions are for sale – Please see our Exhibition Lead, Lisa Beilby to make one of these your own, or any of our Board and staff members on hand will point you in the right direction.
So, who are all the magicians who have conjured up the wherewithal for this exhibition to take off, and for Flying Arts to keep flying:
- First, our hardworking and occasionally inspired Flying Arts Board, and our overworked and inspiring staff, led from the front by the CEO, Kerryanne Farrer, who is about to show you some very pretty pictures. Nearly all of both groups are here tonight, ready to give the Flying Arts spiel and take your orders.
- Next, Ben Werner for leading the install and all the venue and technical staff and gallery volunteers of the Judith Wright Centre, for all their support and venue assistance too.
- Next, our faithful principal supporters:
- The Queensland Government through Arts Queensland
- the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation – whose incredible dedication to regional culture is a constant inspiration to us – and, by the way, they buy the Regional Art Award paintings too!
- The University of Southern Queensland
- Travel associates
… and a heap of supporters and program partners whose names are in the Exhibition catalogue, but I won’t read out or we’ll be here all night.
- And finally to the most important, to all of you for coming, many of you from as far afield as Rockhampton and Toowoomba! to the metropolitan launch of the regional art awards – or is that an oxymoron?
So now to explain how it all comes together, and introduce one of our other splendid initiatives to pluck some more at your heartstrings, and also to pluck at your purse-strings, here’s our CEO superhero Kerryanne Farrer.
Speech from Flying Arts CEO Kerryanne Farrer
I would also like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather, and pay respects to elders past and present.
We trust you are relishing the artwork of our wonderful emerging and established artists who live in and work far and wide across this state. The work you see doesn’t just happen through a stroke of inspiration, however these artists may well have been inspired as children through the opportunity to encounter art at school, or art lessons in their community, whether it was a teacher or family member, that kick started their journey over years of working to master their craft.
At Flying Arts Alliance, we believe that people no matter where they live should have access to art, the practice and the appreciation of art. Allow me to highlight one of our most treasured programs, because we believe that children in the smallest schools in regional and remote communities should have access to enriching arts experiences just as much as their metropolitan counterparts.
For the past few years we’ve been delivering cross-curriculum art lessons and projects in small schools, schools that have less than 50 students through our Small Schools Fund. We are committed to keeping this program free of charge for these schools.
To do this, we have something very special to share with you tonight. Please indulge us while we share this video of stories from the field with you. The video you are about to watch is handmade with love by the staff at Flying Arts.
So tonight, we are extremely excited to be launching our Make Art Big in Small Schools Campaign. We hope you will help us. In fact this is an excellent opportunity to double your donation! Thanks to the matched funding provided through Creative Partnerships Australia’s Plus 1 program! We have a big ambition to raise $10,000 between now and 31 May. And you can help!
Even a small donation will make a big difference to a child in a small school.
$5 will become $10, $50 will become $100, $500 will become $1000 (incidentally if you can give $500 you will join the ranks of our highly valued and prestigious 500 club donor circle – what a great incentive!)
I can hear you all thinking… Quick! How do I donate?
We want to make it very easy for you. Our staff and board are on hand with forms (they are the people madly waiving their hands in the air!). You can grab a form and fill in now for a commitment that we will follow up. OR if you would like to give tonight, the lovely Kat (waiving near the door) will be at the desk outside and will happily take cash or card.
If you can help us spread the word, please like our Facebook page, and share our campaign.
Thank you so, so much, from the bottom of our big red Flying Arts shaped hearts, for whatever you can do to Help us Make Art Big in Small Schools, in every corner of Queensland.
John’s Concluding Remarks
Thanks, Kerryanne. Now that your heart and purse-strings are all thoroughly untied, our Board and staff are ready and waiting to show you how to do empty them into our begging bowls… and if you need a little time to decide how much to fork out, our almost human website will tell you how to do it.
The exhibition will only be on show until Friday, when it goes walkabout: from the deep South to the deep North: Goondiwindi, Somerset, Winton, Chinchilla, Toowoomba and finally Ingham. So get your local friends to hurry up and see it before it Wanders off – spread the word please, in person and on social media – use #flyingarts, so we can like and share your posts!
Also, please feel only too free to purchase those artworks that are for sale – those with a price tag: fill in a purchase enquiry form – it’s in your catalogue – to get first dibs, and leave it with our staff or send/email it back to our office… Just a warning – you will have to wait to receive your purchase till everybody else all over Queensland has had time to look at it!
Please enjoy the exhibition, and our light refreshments. The exhibition may be on here till Friday, but the refreshments are only on till 7.45pm, so do please drink in the artworks and the hospitality till then.