What comes next for Avoca, Dookie, Natimuk, Neerim South and Ouyen? How can art transform a town?
A transformation doesn’t happen with a single event; its beginnings and its ends are hard to define, changing with each new perspective on what inspired the collaboration, what sparked that great idea, and indeed, when it really all began.
While the thinking and dreaming about a Small Town Transformations project began when we first got the word out late in 2012, each of our five towns had been having these kinds of conversations for some time. They were imagining something that was broader than their own creative practice, bigger than an arts project, and beyond the scope of anything they’d imagined before. From the public announcement in May 2013, to the projects’ public culmination in October 2014, each town was in the spotlight, working hard to create new collaborations that would outlive this one project and leave a lasting legacy.
…And now there’s the question of what comes next. There’s some important commitments that each of these collaborators has brought into being: there are the private commitments to sustaining a creative practice as part of an arts town; the personal commitments to sharing their approach with new collaborators; the public commitments to sustaining new public spaces and new artistic opportunities.
Avoca’s Garden of Fire and Water rests quietly awaiting your visit. A garden is a durational artwork which needs the hands of many makers. A garden writes its own story of creative legacy: it grows, it weathers, it requires careful tending. Look out for the special events you can attend at the Garden of Fire and Water, or make your own quiet visit in your town time.
The experience of Dookie Earthed and the majesty of the quarry has marked us indelibly for what the creatives of Dookie can make possible. Dookie Arts are already planning their next projects, which include the book Dookie Behind Closed Doors, as well as programming the Dookie Arts Hub.
Natimuk’s The Verj and The Thing draw you in the closer you approach the town’s centre. Natimuk’s artists will soon be busy planning the next Nati Frinj, to be held on Friday 30 October to Sunday 1 November 2015 – get it in the diary now!
The Neerim South sculpture prize has seen another new sculpture become part of the main street: Tranquillity by Andrew Kasper. And Neerim South’s Bower, soaring seven stories into the air, frames the town beautifully as you drive through. It’s a profound experience.
Ouyen now has an outdoor stage and gathering area to program, as well as a group of talented young filmmakers to foster, keeping the Mallee Up in Lights. The wall garden will need plenty of neighbourly love so that it keeps on overlooking the terrazzo work telling local stories
As you wind down over the summer, choose which of the Small Town Transformations you’ll visit first – and remind yourself what can happen when the commitment to creative practice seizes a whole town.