Creative Business Wrap – June 2022

Spotlight on creativity in regional Australia

This month, we’re taking a look at arts and creativity in the regions, which has long been a part of Sharpe Advisory’s work. Over the years we’ve worked extensively with creative companies and organisations outside of the capital cities, particularly through the network of regional arts organisations in NSW. If you aren’t connected with these 14 vibrant, committed organisations (soon to be 15 with one planned to cover Shoalhaven, Kiama and Shellharbour LGAs), make sure you check out what they’re doing. As a network of professional, creative practitioners living in and supporting arts and culture in the regions, it’s a unique and invaluable set up. We’ve delivered governance and financial training and strategic planning for various RADOs over many years, and it’s always a pleasure to contribute to their work.

Making hay while the sun shines in Hay

Location filming in regional Australia got a shot in the arm during the COVID shutdowns when other location options worldwide were unavailable. In western NSW, the town of Hay received an economic boost when hundreds of film crew members came to town to work on Mad Max: Furiosa. The location was used mainly for stunt work (oh, those long flat roads on the Hay plains!), so there were few celebrity sightings in the main street but, the local cafes, restaurants, and accommodation venues were enjoying the extra business. The movie is predicted to create 850 jobs and inject at least $350 million into the NSW economy, and is one of a slate of “runaway” productions pencilled in for 2022.

How does the industry harness this upswing in mega features to boost local production? Mark David Ryan and Kelly McWilliam tackle that issue in The Conversation. And if you need a refresher on the journey of Mad Max from its low-budget origins, this article will fill you in. Worth it just for the picture of a practically teenage Mel Gibson.

Evening up the stats on statues 

Journalist, disability activist, and comedian Stella Young will have a statue designed in her honour in Stawell by the end of this year thanks to the Victorian Women’s Public Art Program and Northern Grampians Shire Council. Of the 580 statues of public figures in Victoria, only 9 are of women (9!) so this program will prioritise women artists to create statues highlighting the contributions of women from all backgrounds.

Stella Young was born in Stawell in 1982 and passed away unexpectedly in 2014. Her family will be consulted on the statue project, but I wonder what Stella herself would have thought of the project. Her 2014 TED talk “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much” is a humorous but biting look at what she termed “inspiration porn” – stereotypical images of people living with disability being held up as inspiring examples to the rest of the community. She said, “I want to live in a world where we don’t have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for remembering our names and getting out of bed in the morning”. Perhaps they’ll put that on a plaque in front of the statue.

Benefits of silo art to country towns

Since the first mural was painted on a West Australian silo in 2015, silo art has become a way to draw visitors to small communities and encourage them to stay and contribute to the local economy. The Silo Art Trail lists 45 silos and 80 water towers that have been painted, usually depicting local people, wildlife, and farming activities.

Dr Amelia Green from Griffith University investigated the economic benefits of silo art and found that “44% of the 714 visitors surveyed reported that they spend approximately between $11 and $50 in each town they visit for silo art. A further 25% reported that they spend between $50 and $100, but participants repeatedly emphasized that the specific amount they spend varies depending on what businesses are open and whether the silo art site is connected to a town or not.” She also found silo art benefits local communities qualitatively by stimulating happiness through enjoyable interactions with high-quality art (according to 70% of all resident participants), beautification of the everyday environment (72%), and reinforced or increased town pride (65%).

From Armidale to the moon

It’s never been harder for magazines to find and maintain a readership, so it was a delight to come across this story from the NSW town of Armidale, where Danijela Krha Purssey has published 36 issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine. This contemporary art periodical has evolved from a social media group page to a print and digital publication with an international following. The Armidale Express reports that the company now has “seven staff based across the UK, US, Greece, Nepal and Australia. It also has more social media followers than any other Australian based art or photography magazine, and most Australian public and private galleries.” Take a look at the website and you’ll see the title is apt – this is full of beautiful and surreal works of art.

“Out of this world” is probably the phrase to use, particularly as 20 back issues are to be sent to the moon in a time capsule, as part of the Lunar Codex project. The project seeks to archive a collection of contemporary art, books, stories, poetry, essays, music and films on the lunar surface. The original story is on the Express’s site, behind a paywall (which while an inconvenience, is a reminder of how important it is to support regional newspapers).

New creative industries hub at TAFE in Geraldton

Creative arts education through TAFE is a contentious subject here in NSW, where many such courses have been stripped out of the syllabus in recent years. So there will be plenty of people on the east coast looking enviously west at a $4m creative industries hub set up at Central Regional TAFE at Geraldton. According to the press release, the new facility will provide courses in “fashion and textiles, multimedia, photography, graphic design, jewellery making, pottery and glass-making”, recognising the vocational benefits of learning these creative skills.

Creative hubs are on my mind at the moment. As mentioned last month, I’m off to visit the Emporium Creative Hub at Bendigo this week, having provided some research on business models for them last year. And much of the last few months has been spent on an extensive piece of work for City of Gold Coast on their creative precinct, HOTA. Finally on a non-regional note, Wendy Mather and I attended the opening of City of Sydney Creative Studios last week, a project we assisted with back in 2018. All very different expressions of what a creative hub is and should deliver!

Growing up TSI 

Finally, Black Inc. is calling for submissions for Growing Up Torres Strait Islander in Australia, a new anthology, in the “Growing Up” series.  They are looking for non-fiction pieces from writers of all ages and experiences, written in any manner, tone, or style, but not academic or scholarly. They should be written in first-person and be honest accounts of lived experience – positive, negative, or anything in between. Their previous titles Growing Up in Country Australia, Growing Up Aboriginal, Growing Up African, Growing Up Queer, and Growing Up Disabled in Australia have brought together a well-curated collection of quality emerging and established writers. If you know any writers from the Torres Strait Islands pass this on – the closing date is 2nd December 2022.

Found a great article on the business of creativity that is worth sharing or
just want to continue the conversation? Drop me a line via the contact form