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Reflections on the Regional Arts Summit

Feb 18, 2015

In late October 2014, the biannual Regional Arts Australia Summit took place in Kalgoorlie. Over four days the festival sparked ideas and discussions about the challenges that face regional artists, organisations and arts workers. Penny Miles, Australia Council’s Cultural Engagement Manager, gives her reflections and highlights from the summit. 

It’s a sweltering 39 degrees, I’m 34,000kms away from home and a stone’s throw from my hotel is a 3.5km long open-cut mine. These numbers aren’t the figure that stands out from my trip to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. It’s the 550 delegates in town for the Regional Arts Australia Summit. In this large cohort are artists, presenters, community leaders and arts advocates from regional and remote locations across Australia.

Held every two years, the Regional Arts Australia Summit is a unique opportunity for artists and arts workers to connect, share ideas and be inspired. Most conferences can claim this benefit but for the regional arts sector the value is magnified. Being able to catch up with peers isn’t always easy or possible if you are based in a regional and remote centre. So for a brief but intensive four days, the Summit removes the professional and creative isolation.

Presentations, panels and workshops focused on the vitality of the arts and audiences in regional and remote Australia. With so many highlights from the program it’s hard pick a top three, but three presentations stimulated discussion on genuine community engagement and the role it plays in creating community relevance were:

  1. Radio National’s forum with the Senator George Brandic and conference speakers.
  2. Genevieve Grieves’ keynote on developing the First Peoples exhibition at the Melbourne Museum.
  3. Lindy Hume from Opera Queensland talk about their recent regional projects.

Maybe I’m little biased, but I think regional arts have a head start in the community engagement stakes. The sense of place and potential for closer relationships can lead to some very incredible moments.

Image: Regional Arts Summit, credit: Travis Anderson