What started as a uni assignment for four visual arts students in Townsville turned into a community arts forum and a renewed push to raise the value and visibility of the Arts among North Queensland’s broader population yesterday morning.
Creative Townsville Collective (CTC) originally formed in response to a uni assignment for students Sonia Ward, Rob Douma, Neil Binnie and Bronte Perry, who are studying a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the University of Canberra at the TAFE Pimlico campus. The forum, titled Bringing Home the Bacon, sought to spark a think tank for creatives wanting to reinvigorate Townsville’s artistic scene.
With the discontinuation of this Degree – and James Cook University’s Creative Media Degree – beyond 2018, the students were concerned at the lack of formal Arts Education offerings in North Queensland and what this could mean for local artists, the arts community and the region at large.
Sonia said: “The idea of revitalising Arts and the gap in Arts education opportunities after leaving high school seemed to strike a chord amongst not only artists but also diverse supporters of the Arts.
“As Art students we are made aware as part of our education and our involvement in a creative practice about the ways that art can enrich culture, health and wellbeing in regions experiencing an economic downturn,” said Sonia.
“You only need to look around to see the number of spaces empty and the businesses closing in Townsville to see people need something to give our community a lift. Projects like Pop Up North Queensland (PUNQ) in 2017 created a lot of interest and energy in the town.
“As part of my involvement with PUNQ I found people recognised the former use and history of the buildings and were energised by its new creative use.”
One of the key concepts discussed at the forum was the activation of disused spaces in the CBD. While this is certainly not a new concept – it’s been bandied around by artist collectives, Townsville City Council and commerce groups in one form or another for many years – it continues be met with great enthusiasm.
Suggested uses for empty CBD spaces mentioned during Bringing Home the Bacon, included:
- A performance space for theatre groups
- A rehearsal space for musicians
- Exhibition and studio space for visual artists; and
- Break-out spaces for larger Arts festivals.
There was also an emphasis placed on the need for artists to better tell their own stories and to develop tourism products from local arts practices to heighten Townsville’s standing as a must-do destination for Arts tourism. Cultural tourists are shown to spend more per visitor night than other types of tourists and 40% of international visitors will undertake an arts activity during their holiday, making this an important opportunity for Townsville to increase its appeal to visitors.
“A number of models or benchmark cities around Australia have employed art to lift community spirit and revitalise towns,” explained Sonia.
“Look at Dark Mofo [an Arts and Cultural Festival] in Tasmania where creative energy turned a quiet winter time tourist season into a boom time.”
While no concrete plans came out of the forum, Sonia and her team were pleased to provide a conduit for conversation among the artists on the frontline.
“Bringing Home the Bacon is a starting point for bigger things,” she said. “Bringing people together and building a network of people from diverse backgrounds who recognise the value of arts is a valuable way to start an active think tank. Although as a group CTC has their own long-term vision of revitalising arts and culture, forums like Bringing Home the Bacon help to direct future planning based on community need, interests and motivations.”
“To highlight Townsville Arts Community as a separate entity is to do arts an injustice and the value it brings. I believe the challenge is bringing arts into the everyday realm by using spaces that people connect with. You only have to look at the popularity of the Strand Ephemera to know comfortable familiar spaces connect with people.”
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