The End is a Beginning for six small towns

Two years of Small Town Transformations is drawing to a close. A bittersweet moment where amazingly ambitious work in each of the six towns has been developed and delivered, and at the same time presenting an opportunity to transform into an exciting, creative future.

Each project continues to grow and exceed their original ambition, with viable legacy and future creative growth. Local capacity – expertise, experience and connections – has been tangibly increased within each project. Forward thinking conversations and frameworks for succession planning and sharing of ongoing responsibilities with a wider group are underway.

The legacy of each project is evident and future work is being planned in all six towns as the projects reach completion.

Many stories have been discovered, shared and continue to be written. This opportunity for collaboration has harnessed the power to transform; to enrich people’s lives, strengthen community connections, increase economic possibilities and present opportunities for greater access and inclusion.

Creative communities are alive and well across Australia, making inspiring work with often limited resources. Small Town Transformations was a catalyst for extending this by facilitating opportunities for growth, capacity building and for the all-important inspiration to flow.

The opportunity has been well and truly seized.

Small Town Transformations is an Australian Government initiative administered by Regional Arts Victoria, supporting ambitious creative projects that transform communities and create lasting legacies of local artistic leadership.

Message from Director of Regional Arts Victoria

Message from Director of Regional Arts Victoria

Six towns are about to embark on an ambitious adventure that puts artistic practice at the centre of their community life.

Small Town Transformations supports creative projects that will leave a lasting legacy. Projects that draw on contemporary Indigenous culture and proud Indigenous history. Projects that connect people, place and practice in meaningful ways. Projects that inspire new energies, new thinking and new collaborations.

Post #7: Building your budget

As you enter the final stages of preparing your application to Small Town Transformations you are no doubt addressing the budget for your big ideas. The template can be found on Page 10 of the Expression of Interest form, or a more flexible version can be downloaded here. This may be a process which brings up more questions for your group. Here is a little more guidance on how to approach building the budget for your project.  

Post #6: Pulling it together

Post #6: Pulling it together

Your ideas are flowing, the town is abuzz, but it's time to hunker down and translate all the wonderful conversations in your town into a compelling Expression of Interest. Feeling in need of inspiration? We've got some words of reassurance and clarity from Regional Arts Victoria Director Esther Anatolitis to guide your thinking as we enter the final weeks.

Post #5: Connecting with artists

The artistic process is transformative. Creative practitioners explore ideas, articulate concepts and engage communities in new experiences. The way we think, see and act is strongly affected by the ways we participate and collaborate in making new work; art inspires us toward ever more subtle perceptions and understandings. Nurturing cultural change within communities is the bold and achievable aim of Small Town Transformations.

There are artists in every small town community – artists with ideas big and small – artists who may not always have the opportunity to develop their craft alongside others who share their passion and skill. Small Town Transformations invites you to articulate a cultural change through performance, circus, sculpture, games, dance, film, music, architecture, design or indeed any other creative practice that can bring a community together. You are invited to be ambitious in imagining a project of recognisable artistic excellence.

Regional Arts Victoria is standing by to introduce you to artists beyond your town who you may like to involve. Perhaps they’re practitioners with whom local artists would love to collaborate; perhaps they’re leaders in the artform that’s key to your transformation; perhaps they’re artists you’ve long admired. There are numerous local and regional artist networks to connect with, as well as peak bodies and specialist organisations who can help guide your questions. You’d be surprised to imagine who is keen to work with you on this! Reach out with confidence.

This is also a rare opportunity to extend your enquiry deep into your own region to uncover skills and interests that may not immediately be visible.

Small Town Transformations is all about Thinking Bigger. This is your opportunity to facilitate the new ideas that extend into high-quality, memorable and lasting artistic experiences.

Our role at Regional Arts Victoria is to propel your thinking – do get in touch with us if you would like to talk further about your applications. Click here to see our team and their contact details.

Event: Facebook Q+A

Join the Small Town Transformations team to ask any questions you may have about your Expression of Interest. 

What is a Facebook Q & A?

It’s an opportunity to ask the team any questions live online and receive an immediate answer; if you have a question, it’s sure to be a question that others have too.

You can find the event on Facebook by clicking here.

Online will be program Manager Graham Coffey and Administrator Will McRostie between 6pm and 7pm - just post your question in the event and we'll respond!

We can help with questions on

– Eligibility
– Selection criteria
– Partnerships
– Artists
– Community consultation

And anything else.

If you'd prefer to send through your question ahead of time please email it to As always, we're here to help during business hours, so please give us a call on 03 9644 1814 if you need any further clarification.

Post #4: Thinking Bigger

With four weeks until the close of Expressions of Interest, there are excellent conversations and big ideas emerging all over the state. In this post, we're looking at some more common ideas for arts projects and encouraging you to think even bigger.

Developing your big ideas

At this stage in the Expression of Interest phase you will very likely be close to a decision about your project and considering the responses asked for in the application documents.

You may be wondering whether your big ideas are the right ones for your town; how they address the needs you have identified; how the town will participate. You are likely asking yourself how innovative they are, and do they really stand out.

You will have undoubtedly had ideas that have stuck, perhaps some that have been dropped or developed from where they started and in your mind are getting closer to directly addressing the selection criteria. Strong applications are those that address all the criteria, making a strong case for your town's transformative experience.

We really hope that you are enjoying this exciting part of the process  many have remarked on how much they are enjoying and valuing their new community conversations.

When talking with towns throughout this phase of the project a number of familiar ideas have been discussed – many of them fine ideas and interestingly imagined. Sculpture trails, community mosaics or murals are regularly discussed as helping develop a town’s identity, that they will make a visible and long lasting contribution.

These kinds of projects will be familiar to many and have often made significant contributions to heritage and cultural identity. However, it is this familiarity that we would like to poke a little bit! Small Town Transformations is challenging towns to imagine and deliver cultural change: to think big about the possibilities of a fund of this size; to allow for a broad ranging experience for the population of your town; to embed new experiences of the power of artistic practice in innovative forms  big ideas that the town in all its diversity will contribute to and develop strong connections with.

The ideas behind these suggestions are good starting points but at this stage, one month away from submission date, we would like you to continue to interrogate whether they really are fulfilling the needs you have identified for your town.

What is the best you can imagine? What’s your BIG idea? As illustrated in the first round of Small Town Transformations there are so many interesting possibilities that we’re hoping that this second round of submissions will be similarly inspired. We can’t wait to hear more from across the state.

Our role at Regional Arts Victoria is to support you – do get in touch with us if you would like to talk further about your applications. Click here to see our team and their contact details.

Inspiration: Taradell Lip Dub

We're talking to a lot of people around Victoria about their big ideas for places: hubs, venues, galleries and refurbishments. The idea of a place transforming your town is valid, but what happens in that place is as important as the place itself and you will be expected to demonstrate how such a space will be used as a catalyst for transformation.

Indeed, a transformative idea does not demand the creation of a place and your resources may be better used on developing skills, building community and gathering assets.

The village of Taradell in Catalonia, Spain came together as a town to film a single-take lip dub to 90s anthem Tubthumping that brought the whole town together. By pooling their talents, vast and humble, the town was able to create a celebration of their community and have a great time together. It is also a remarkable feat of organisation and film-making as the whole video was shot in a single take travelling throughout the town.

In another Spanish example, a K-12 school in Matadepera, Catalonia, came together to film a class-by-class lip dub to Katy Perry's Firework

While your ambition can be bigger when planning your small town transformation, elements like this that will involve the whole town are as much a part of a transformation as the construction of space.

Post #3: Are you a town?

This post concentrates on one of the criteria for eligibility: your status as a town. There have been many conversations in the information sessions about this - which is understandable when questions about statistical definitions arise. This topic is briefly addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions section but we hope this post provides greater clarity for those unsure of their status.   

Firstly, let’s recap the statement in the guidelines and then focus on how you determine your eligibility via the resource provided:

Proposed outcomes must be for a Victorian regional small town of population less than 2,000.

Small Town Transformations is an initiative specifically for small regional Victorian towns. To be eligible, small towns of population fewer than 2,000 must be located within the shire councils listed in the Regional Development Victoria Act 2002. Towns outside of these council boundaries are not eligible. The full list of eligible councils is on Page 13 of this Handbook.

Regional Arts Victoria uses the Australian Government Census as the measure of population. The most recent Census data is from 2011. Clarification of your locality’s status as a ‘town’ can be obtained from your local shire or council’s website.

It is important to be clear about the status of your town. There are a number of statistical designations used for different purposes in local, state and federal government but the one we are using as a benchmark, as there needs to be a benchmark, is Urban Centres and Localities (UCL). The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) use this as a way of defining population centres and thus the idea of ‘towns’.

Using the link provided in the Guidelines to the ABS reference page – also HERE – you can check that your town is designated under Urban Centre/Locality (UCL) – here is a screen shot of an example using a previous eligible applicant:

The last selection in this list is the UCL designation. And here is what that selection returns:

This is the benchmark which will confirm your eligibility.

However, some local councils also designate that some areas with only an SSC (State Suburb) classification (as seen in the drop down list above) are also towns. This is the reason we advise in the guidelines that you inquire of your local council if you are unclear – some SSC designated areas will be locally classified as towns and are thus eligible to apply, and others will not.

An example below is Whitfield in Rural City of Wangaratta – they only have SSC status but the council does designate them as a town and they are thus eligible to apply for Small Town Transformations:

Whilst shire councils do have some structural differences, in enquiring of your status we advise that you start with the Planning Department or local equivalent. This will only apply to a small number of towns and we are here to help you navigate this. If you have established that you are designated as a town through your shire then please ensure this is stated in your application.

To recap:

If your town is designated as an Urban Centre/Locality (UCL) and has a population less than 2000 people, then you are eligible and there is no need to provide us with any further detail in your application.

If your town only has State Suburb Classification (SSC), then you need to contact your local council to check whether they recognise your community as a town and, if they do, this must be stated in your application.

If your town does not have either UCL or SSC confirmed town status, then please contact us before proceeding with your application.

Inspiration: Farmers Towers

Our inspirational project this week is from our own backyard! Many would have already seen the national coverage of the small town of Brim in the Wimmera district of Western Victoria, where an artist has utilised four disused silos as a canvas for this magnificent artwork.

Photo by Guido van Helten

Photo by Guido van Helten

Danielle Grindlay at ABC Rural has written an excellent article about the work, the process behind its creation and its impact on the town:

"Guido van Helten has turned the tiny town of Brim, with a population of about 100, into a tourist destination overnight, and social media is cluttered with photos of his work.

"People are in awe of the four characters, standing 30 metres tall, on the iconic Australian structures."

This project was supported by Regional Arts Victoria through the Regional Arts Fund along with Yarriambiack Shire Council, and local contributions of cash and materials. The Age's Carolyn Webb paints the whole picture of how the community came together with a little outside help to realise something fantastic:

"The project came to Brim out of the blue. Van Helten has done similar giant portraits in Ukraine, Norway, Italy, Denmark and Iceland, and he asked street artist management company Judd Roller to find him silos in Victoria.

"GrainCorp came up with a disused set at Brim, which dominate the town facing west over the highway. Funds were provided by Regional Arts Victoria and the Yarriambiack Shire Council, paint was donated by Taubman and Loop Paints, and the local caravan park and pub provided free accommodation and meals."

This project is an excellent illustration of what a Small Town Transformation project might look like: it has the support of the community and involves multiple project partners including local government, it used innovative technology to map and plan its execution and it brought artistic expertise into a small rural community. As a result, it has created a point of pride for the town and drawn national and international attention, putting Brim on the map which will hopefully have a flow-on impact for local business.

Small Town Transformations offers the opportunity to think even bigger than these 30 metre silos - if this was one project, imagine what impact your big idea will have over multiple projects and two years.

The project was made possible by the Australian Government’s regional arts program, the Regional Arts Fund, which gives all Australians, wherever they live, better access to opportunities to practise and experience the arts. The Regional Arts Fund is administered in Victoria by Regional Arts Victoria.

The project was made possible by the Australian Government’s regional arts program, the Regional Arts Fund, which gives all Australians, wherever they live, better access to opportunities to practise and experience the arts. The Regional Arts Fund is administered in Victoria by Regional Arts Victoria.

Post #2: Getting Going

This week we have been delivering our third round of Information Sessions to the South East region, starting on Monday in Mallacoota and working our way back to Leongatha on Thursday evening. It has been another inspiring week of ideas and community conversation.

In this post

How do we start?
Inspiration: Jerusalem's Interactive Flowers

How do we start?

The most frequently answered question during and after the sessions so far is How do we start? What is our first conversation? So, one thing I would like to extract from the experience of delivering the information sessions is how the selection criteria (click here to view them in detail) are very useful in starting and focusing the community conversations you will be having. These six criteria can provide a strong, focused framework for your conversations.

Instead of starting with a blank whiteboard, you might want to use these headings to kick off your conversation:

  • Identified need
  • Artistic transformation
  • Local engagement
  • Community participation
  • Legacy planning
  • Project management

If you work through each of these in this order – resisting the temptation to look too far forward in the list at first – then I believe you will make a very strong start.

I would particularly encourage you not to look at your project management capacity until you have addressed what your town needs. Firstly, consider what innovative, creative experience might fulfill your identified need, and don't be tempted to fit your ambitions to your perceived capacity too early on. That way real, transformative ideas can grow.

I have been stressing in the public sessions that identifying what skills you don’t possess shouldn't be seen as a negative. As important as knowing what you can do is knowing what you can’t do – and for that not to place restrictions on your ambition. Continue to think big!

With a program of this scale you have the opportunity, backed up by resources, to bring in creative or management expertise; an artist with particular skills can help realise your ideas with you or inspire new ones; a project manager can navigate any particularly concentrated periods of activity you may be proposing. Bringing this expertise into your community or employing those within it can be very powerful – build new skills within your town through new learning opportunities and enhance your capacity to deliver the innovative, ambitious projects you are devising. 

Be sure to include a budget line that addresses capacity building expertise such as this and express in your delivery calendar where that expertise might be best used. Most of all, allow yourself to continue to think big about what might transform your town.

In the guidelines you will find further explanation of what is expected in your responses to these criteria – and as always do contact us for any help or guidance you might need.

Graham Coffey, Small Town Transformations Manager

Inspiration: Jerusalem's Interactive Flowers

In the second of our (hopefully) inspirational examples of transformation, have a close look at this great example of innovative, creative placemaking. Transformation of space is achieved through striking artist designed street furniture - responding to a practical need but also creating a focus and demand for public use. Does your town have a public space that could provide a new focus for your community?

'Let's meet at the poppies.' 

These interactive urban sculptures in Jerusalem combine public goods like shade, light and shelter with art and play.

The flowers built as part of the Warde installation use motion sensors to detect when people stand beneath them, they use compressed air to "bloom". The effect is the creation of a striking common experience for the diverse users of a public environment, inviting them to share a memory and begin conversations in the space.

You can read more about the project on Contemporist by clicking here, and you can read about the creators HQ Architects by clicking here.

Post #1: Transformations

Welcome to the Small Town Transformations blog! This is where we’ll share ideas to provoke your thinking about how art can transform your town. We want you to be inspired by these communities, whose innovative arts practice lies at the heart of their towns.

We’ll let you know when we post new examples – sign up to our mailing list for updates.

We start with an excellent provocation from Jo Grant, one of Regional Arts Victoria’s Creative Arts Facilitators – asking What’s your story? Jo gets straight to the heart of how you might start to develop your thinking for the big ideas in your application.

Next I have chosen a fantastic tale from very close to where I grew up in the UK – The Handmade Parade in Hebden Bridge. I hope you enjoy reading their story and seeing their extraordinary work!

Finally, our Small Town Transformations book is available to read online – enjoy reading about the first five town projects. To visit their individual projects visit the 2012-14 Projects page.

– Graham Coffey
Manager, Small Town Transformations

Small towns: What's your story?

By Jo Grant, Creative Arts Facilitator for the Great South Coast

Since the announcement that Small Town Transformations funding is returning for regional Victorian towns in 2016, our communities are buzzing with focused conversations and preparing to come together to think about how art might transform their towns.

How can you come up with something really special? Perhaps the key to finding that something special is to know your story. Each town has a story, a unique thing that only belongs to you. It might be historic, funny, environmental, geological or quirky. But you have one.

The best way to find that story is to map your town. Get together and write down all its features, the groups, the people, the places you like to be. Map your stories (the tall and truthful), your green spaces, the places that people feel connected to. Write it all down. Consider how your town is perceived by others and be honest. Think about what’s old and new, what has worked and what hasn’t.  Put it altogether and observe any themes rising to the top.

There will inevitably be something that defines the story of your town, something you’re proud to name and then you’ll have it, the basis for your thinking. Your story.  Use this story as a guide, a touchstone for every conversation you have about your town in the context of transformative projects and you’ll be one step further towards finding that special idea that will change your town. 

Candy Chang project,  Looking for Love again .

Candy Chang project, Looking for Love again.

Inspiration: Hebden Bridge – Handmade Parade

Hebden Bridge is a town with an idea that grew from a small community program into an annual event that has been emulated across the UK, and now the world. It’s an example of how a town’s idea engaged a diverse community, built skills, and embraced new and shared local histories.

The 2014 Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade – photo by Ian Hodgson

The 2014 Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade – photo by Ian Hodgson

The Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade (website) began in 2008 and has grown into one of the largest community events in the world. It is an annual 'celebration of funkiness' delivered by a maker of giant puppets in collaboration with a local theatre company.

More than 1000 people now participate each year, with thousands more looking on. The partnership between the puppeteers and producers has grown into a business venture based in Hebden Bridge that produces large-scale, participatory outdoor arts events across the UK and the world.

The open-access nature of the parade celebrates their town and their place in the region and builds the creative skills of the community, drawing local and international guest artists to run open workshops in design and craft skills used to make costumes and floats.

The Handmade Parade has put Hebden Bridge on the map as a cultural destination and centre of excellence, and has inspired a yearly program of spin-off events such as the Lamplighter Festival, as well as similar events across the world like Wellington's Handmade Festival.

Click below to learn more about:

Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade
The Lamplighter Festival
Wellington Handmade Festival

How can art transform your town?

Our document of the first Small Town Transformations program is available to view online. Read about the transformations in Avoca, Dookie, Neerim South, Ouyen and Natimuk, the processes they undertook and the outcomes for their town and surrounds.

You can also view short documentary videos about each town within their listing on this website. Click here to visit the project pages.