The art of creating miracles across regional WA

The art of creating miracles across regional WA

Jon Solmundson

Bringing together artists and arts organisations in every corner of our vast state, the Regional Arts Partnership Program (RAPP) has delivered WA’s first arts network of its kind connecting and impacting communities – from Kununurra to Albany.

The Creative Grid network is linking up more than 40 organisations, spread across a staggering 2.5 million square kilometres.

The project puts an end to the ‘silo’ approach of arts administration, and brings artists, galleries and arts organisations from every region of WA out of isolation to share resources and funding and work together to create and tour exhibitions and new projects.

This ground-breaking initiative is being driven by a self-taught artist, community leader and mum-of-four, Fiona Sinclair who is based in the South West town of Northcliffe.

Artistic Director and General Manager of the Northcliffe-based Southern Forest Arts and Project Coordinator for The Creative Grid, Fiona is passionate about the importance of the arts to strengthen the fabric and sense of well-being of regional communities.

Fiona Sinclair, Creative Grid Project Coordinator.

“Regional arts is all about pulling miracles out of thin air on shoe string budgets – and we do that every day,” she says. “You really are talking about creating magic and pulling rabbits out of hats – creating something out of virtually nothing. It’s about transforming regional communities on an intimate and real level and we are doing that all time with very little money.”

Fiona says that The Creative Grid, which is facilitated and funded by Country Arts WA’s Regional Arts Partnership Program (RAPP), is unique not only its highly collaborative structure but also in its delivery.

“One of the great things about RAPP and The Creative Grid is that normally a project like this would be run by external arts administrators but it’s being run by someone like me, living in a tiny, dinky little country town.”

A shearer’s daughter who grew up in Toodyay, Fiona describes herself as having a “very un-arts background” but with a keen understanding of life in regional WA. And while jobs and skills enhancement are important benefits of the project, Fiona says its greatest goal is building social capital.

“For artists and communities, the experience of living regionally is incredibly isolating. This project provides an opportunity to break out of our own little space and work in tandem with each other.

When you feel supported as an artist, art worker or arts organisation, you are able to give so much more to your community. You can explore identity and celebrate achievement.”

“The projects we are creating are very much regionally driven and not coming out of the city. It is about country people saying this is what we are really interested in. It is about regional WA taking the reins and driving a different future for the arts in this state.”

This year The Creative Grid, which is focused on the visual arts, will deliver 15 solo exhibitions, 15 group exhibitions and 50 mentorships including 15 artist mentorships, 15 curator mentorships, 15 photographer mentorships and 5 public art mentorships.

Two unique projects are also underway, Artspiration – a mini-doc series celebrating regional arts excellence – and the development of a regional exhibition exchange network enabling and benefiting regional artists, arts venues and communities by increasing exposure to new audiences and injecting new visions, concepts and conversations into host communities.

Regional Arts Partnership Program (RAPP)

The Regional Arts Partnership Program (RAPP) was launched in October 2016 and is delivered by Country Arts WA, on behalf of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development, under the State Government’s $24 million Creative Regions investment into arts and culture across WA.

RAPP is the first arts network of its kind in WA, linking local regional artists and organisations together with leading WA arts bodies and providers to create, resource and run new and creative arts projects – in a way that has not been done before.

Country Arts WA Executive Director Paul MacPhail said the program revolutionised the way arts funding was distributed to the regions.

“This innovative new framework – such as The Creative Grid – allows arts organisations and individuals to become the drivers of regional arts decision making and work with a much bigger budget and far better allocation of resources.”

“It also gives these individuals and organisations the capacity and opportunity to collaborate and tap into the wealth of accumulated talent and skills available across the arts in WA in a way they have not previously been able to do.”

“In addition, is a highly effective vehicle for the creation of more job opportunities, more art projects and performances, as well as more support for regional art and artists and a more enlivened and sustainable regional arts sector as a result.”

Mr MacPhail said The Creative Grid was one of three projects to receive RAPP funding of $200,000 each for the creation and delivery of their initiatives.

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