Creative Recovery: Where Are We Now?
In July 2022, we gathered creative industries from across the region to lay the foundations for a sector-led approach to recovery following the flood disaster. With the pivotal question, ‘Where to now?’, the Creative Industries Recovery Forum‘s mission was to provide a platform for the impacted arts and cultural sector to gather, listen, plan and be heard on what is needed in the journey towards recovery.
A year on from the Forum, we are taking a moment to assess the current status with the theme, ‘where are we now?’, reflecting on our efforts in the ongoing recovery of the region’s creative industries.
Progress Update: Where Are We Now?
The Forum yielded three project streams that identified Public Art, First Nations Arts, and Dance as pivotal areas requiring focus to support the region’s revival, recovery, and renewal. Across all of these streams, each supported by The Australia Council for the Arts, is the crucial key of connection.
The Expansive Encounters exchange residency has emerged as a dynamic link between the Northern Rivers and Ōtautahi Christchurch, providing a platform for connections and network expansion post-natural disasters. This September, local artists Antoinette O’Brien and Erica Gully will embark on a four-week immersive experience in Ōtautahi Christchurch, collaborating with partner organisations Gap Filler, Life in Vacant Spaces, and Toi Otautahi. These organisations were instrumental in the post-2011 earthquake arts recovery, exemplifying their dedication to creative placemaking, community growth, and urban design amidst adversity. Looking ahead to 2024, Ōtautahi Christchurch artists will reciprocate with their own immersive Northern Rivers residency, culminating in a compelling public art symposium uniting participants from both countries.
The Dance Sector Uplift project is dedicated to rejuvenating dance, physical theatre, and experimental performance across the region. Consultations with local artists, including Indigenous and culturally diverse contributors, have steered the project evolution to date. The journey culminates in a convergence event this October that brings together choreographers, makers, and producers for a professional exchange focused on the report findings from the consultations which will inform the next steps for sector development here in the Northern Rivers.
First Nations Forward is a consultative project working to develop understandings across the emerging and mid-career needs of Indigenous communities within the Bundjalung region, focusing on arts and cultural practices. Initial findings emphasise the desire for culturally safe blak-owned spaces and improved support networks, while challenges include staffing and time constraints during data collection events. Moving forward, the project will reach out with targeted discussions within specific postcodes with the goal of identifying key recommendations to support a Indigenous-led creative sector development.
In addition to the above three projects, we’re amplifying our Public Art focus through the current SITE LAB project. Co-commissioned by Arts Northern Rivers and Lismore Regional Gallery, SITE LAB presents an array of public artworks in Lismore 29 July to 17 September, including floating sculpture, experimental sound, living installations, and community-engaged works. Complementing this artistic showcase is a free program featuring artist talks, live listening events, and engaging sculptural activations.
We have also embarked on a comprehensive two-year Creative Sector Mapping research project in collaboration with Patternmakers and the support of Create NSW. The project aims to gain a deep understanding of the Northern Rivers’ arts and cultural landscape, capturing the needs, aspirations, and perspectives of independent practitioners, organisations, audiences, and communities.
Through a combination of surveys, interviews, focus groups, and data analysis, the research will identify patterns, trends, and emergent themes that will inform strategic planning and shape the future of the region’s arts and cultural sector. In early 2024, the local sector will be invited to participate in this vital research project to collectively navigate challenges and build a stronger future for the Northern Rivers’ arts and cultural sectors.
“We are driven by a passionate commitment to the creative industries of the Northern Rivers region. Through our recovery initiatives, we aim to foster a resilient and vibrant arts sector that not only rebuilds from adversity but also paves the way for a thriving and culturally enriched future.” – Executive Director, Jane Fuller