Belonging is an artist driven project coordinated by IACA to meet the requests of the membership to develop greater art skills using new and diverse media, and the shared aspiration to introduce the network’s art and culture to new audiences.
Directed from the ground by the artists and communities, with an emphasis on cultural integrity, IACA worked together with its members to conceive the project. The theme - Belonging - was developed by the art centres and artists via a series of concept consultation sessions with Curator Glenn Iseger-Pilkington and arts facilitator Edwina Circuitt.
From September 2018 - March 2020, IACA rolled out a series of intensive, customised artistic development workshops delivered onsite to art centres by a team of expert facilitators: Edwina Circuitt, Rebecca Dagnall, and Curtis Taylor. Working in 3 week blocks across the entire region the team delivered skills development, encouraged exploration of new mediums and creative experimentation to artists at the art centres of: Badu Art Centre, Bana Yirriji Art & Cultural Centre, Erub Arts, Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre, Hopevale Arts and Cultural Centre, Lockhart River Art Centre, MiArt Mornington Island Art, Moa Arts, Pormpuraaw Art & Culture Centre, Wei’num Arts and Crafts, Wik and Kugu Arts Centre, Yalanji Arts and Yarrabah Art Centre.
During the Belonging workshops, facilitators simultaneously worked to upskill art centre staff, training arts workers in best practice studio management, including sourcing the highest quality materials, stretching canvas, mixing paints and organising studio workflow. Where required and requested, staff and arts workers also learnt how to photograph artworks and take artist portraits, use the SAM database to update artist biographies, catalogue artwork stories and consign works.
Bush trips were an important aspect of the workshops, connecting artists to country and important cultural sites as they worked through the Belonging theme. Artists also valued the opportunity to collect materials such as earth pigments and found objects to incorporate in the making of artworks.
The workshops actively attracted new artists to the art centres as younger and emerging artists participated, fostering a new generation of art makers across the region. In total, over 100 Indigenous artists from 13 remote art centres developed creative practical and conceptual skills by gaining access to the workshops, leaving art centres with a legacy of skills for the future.
The Belonging artwork outcomes have resulted in a unique and significant cultural collection, an exhibition quality body of innovative artwork of wide regional representation. Over 300 artworks were produced in various media including painting, weaving, blacklight installations, ceramics, sculptures, film and photography. The artworks share largely previously untold stories and perspectives on history, experiences, culture, issues and life from artists in these remote Indigenous communities.
In 2021 a curated selection of the works made during the Belonging workshops will be acquired and jointly exhibited at the National Museum of Australia (NMA) titled: Belonging, Contemporary Indigenous Art from Far North QLD. IACA is proud to partner with the NMA in Canberra who have recognised the cultural significance of the Belonging works and will acquire the collection and launch the exhibition, before it tours nationally.
This culturally significant exhibition will highlight and celebrate the diversity of art from the remote community Indigenous Art Centres based in the Torres Strait, Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York. The exhibition will be the first opportunity for audiences outside Queensland to see such a large body of new work from the region, it will introduce the network’s art and culture to national and potentially international audiences, increasing exposure, audience interest and understanding of the art and culture of the region.
The Belonging project was funded by the Federal Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts program and the Australia Council for the Arts.
For more, read ‘A new age of appreciation for First Nations visual arts’ by Diana Carroll first published 4/10/19 on ArtsHub
“The artists have loved the workshops and the artwork outcomes have been extraordinary. But more than that, the workshops will leave a legacy of best-practice skills including, artistic conceptual development, professional studio practice and access to the best quality materials.”Pam Bigelow
Hopevale Arts and Cultural Centre - Hopevale
Bana Yirriji Art Centre - Wujal Wujal
Wik and Kugu Arts Centre - Aurukun
MiArt Mornington Island Art - Mornington Island
Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Centre - Pormpuraaw
Yalanji Arts - Mossman Gorge
Yarrabah Art Centre - Yarrabah
Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre - Cardwell
"As an artsworker, I gained an enormous amount of technical information around the preparation of mediums, methods of application and workshop set-up, as well as an understanding of how to help artists at certain stages of their paintings, which has been invaluable to my working with the artists since."Leanne Emmit - Yalanji Arts
Main image credit: Joelene Roughsey and daughter Mandy with her Rainbow Serpent artwork painted during the IACA Belonging workshop at Mornington Island Art, May 2019. Image: IACA Edwina Circuitt