Small Town Transformations Forum, The Conversation Hour 774 ABC Melbourne, Lousie FitzRoy and John Faine

(L-R) Tracey Lawson, Mark Long, Martin Bride, Jane Howe and Janie Christophersen,  (Louise FitzRoy - ABC Local)

(L-R) Tracey Lawson, Mark Long, Martin Bride, Jane Howe and Janie Christophersen,  (Louise FitzRoy - ABC Local)

Do you live in a small town of 1,500 people or less? How would you transform your town if you were given $350,000 for arts?

Read original article and listen to the full conversation here.

Five communities in regional Victoria have or are about to transform their small towns forever with artistic projects.

From sustainable Chinese gardens, to reclaiming disused land to create cultural arts spaces, to large-scale installations, residents of each town have worked together to create these transformative art projects.

The Victorian Government's Small Town Transformations, delivered by Regional Arts Victoria, has provided funds of $350,000 to five towns of less than 1500 people including Avoca, Dookie, Natimuk, Neerim South and Ouyen.

The residents of each town have been involved in the vision, planning and delivery of their projects and a representative from each community joins Jon Faine on the program.

Chair of the Avoca local committee of residents, Jane Howe, one of the organisers from Dookie Arts, Janie Christophersen, community facilitator from Natimuk, Martin Bride, Neerim Bower project coordinator, Mark Long and community facilitator from Ouyen, Tracey Lawson form today's inspiring panel.

THE TRANSFORMATIONS

OUYEN: Known locally as the 'Jewel of the Mallee', the Roxy Theatre in Ouyen is renewing its town centre role through The Mallee Up In Lights transformation creating a new cultural venue for ongoing programming and events, including the creation of major public installations created by the community and arts participation workshops. Launched on Friday 3 October 2014.

DOOKIE: Across the town, a number of projects have been created, the main focus being the local quarry which is being repurposed as an amphitheatre. Dookie's local Hall has also been transformed into a vibrant arts venue that now regularly plays host to travelling performances, film nights and exhibitions. Stories of the locals have also been captured in a documentary on life in a small town, which will be premiered at the launch event. Launched on Saturday 4 October 2014

AVOCA: Under the guidance of Chinese-Australian artist Lindy Lee and artistic director Lyndal Jones the town has created a sustainable Chinese garden acknowledging their shared heritage in a central site in town adjacent to the area's first Chinese burial site. Across the year there have been a number of projects involving the community and schools to prepare the garden. Launch date: 12noon - 9pm, Saturday 11 October 2014.

NATIMUK: A central, under-utilised strip of public land in the centre of Natimuk township has been redesigned as a beautiful public space, The Verj, focusing on alternative power generation and bringing together the Indigenous and farming heritage of the town. The site now features seating, kinetic sculptures by Sam Deal, paving artwork led by Mary French and created by the community, and solar-powered tin can lanterns and paste ups in the skate park. Along the strip key cultural and community assets are located, including the Soldiers Memorial Hall, community centre, rotunda and skate park. Launch date: 4:30pm - 8:30pm, Friday 24 October 2014.

NEERIM SOUTH: A stunning landmark gateway will soon transform Neerim South with the Neerim Bower heralding the local arts activity that now characterizes the town. Inspired by the Satin Bower Bird, the smallest branch stands at 10.6m and has been constructed by a local metal firm. Community activities and an art competition based on the bower shape have been running alongside the construction process. The Neerim Bower is now complete, and will be launched on Sunday 26 October 10:30am - 5:30pm, to be opened by the Arts Minister Heidi Victoria and with a day full of activities.

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