Visual Arts Leadership Program Workshop, Broome 2015

An annual symposium and workshop is the principal event in the VAL program. This year Broome was selected as the location in order to facilitate remote participation, make use of local expertise and increase Kimberley awareness of the program and other Desert River Sea activities. The Notre Dame Campus proved an ideal venue, as both the accommodation and workshop facilities were located together in the lushly vegetated grounds. A select group drawn from across the Kimberley attended, some independent artists, others working in art centres or other arts organisations. This year’s group included Mark Nodea (Warmun art centre), Lillie Spinks (Ngurra Art Centre), Japarti Joseph Nuggett (Mangkaja), Bianca Nargoodah (Mangkaja), Amanda Smith (Marnin Studio), Garry Sibosado (independent artist Lombadina) and Michael Torres (independent artist Broome).

The objectives of the event were practical as well as theoretical. Participants would leave inspired by new ideas and equipped with new practical skills directly applicable to their arts practice and to community cultural documentation projects. They would also be provided with networking opportunities with other industry professionals and distant Kimberley colleagues. In addition the workshop would look towards ensuring a Kimberley voice in the curatorial process both for a proposed minor exhibition as part of the 2016 workshop, and the major exhibition at AGWA in 2018.

To these ends the event’s major focus was on Storytelling Theory and Practice, with Marketing, Story, and the Mainstream Art World as a sub-theme. The symposium component comprised presentations and discussions with arts industry professionals from a range of backgrounds. The practical workshop included training in the use of iPads and digital software designed for rapid acquisition of video compilation skills. It was intended that these tools would place the design of and control over the recording of art and cultural practices directly in the hands of participants, allowing for autonomy of representation and interpretation.

The first morning was spent on a trip out bush with local Karajarri elder and guide Jimmy Edgar, who welcomed participants to his country and introduced them to sites of interest around Roebuck Bay. The group sat around a campfire to listen to Edgar’s perspective on storytelling drawn from his background as a singer-songwriter, dancer, actor and guide, and then chatted over billy tea and a freshly cooked stingray which had been delivered wriggling on the end of a spear by a passing fisherman. Back on campus, the afternoon was dedicated to Tim Pearn’s presentation on marketing and Aboriginal art and the place of ‘story’ within this, followed by a round table discussion of the workings of the broader mainstream art world.

The second day was the Storytelling conceptual component of the event. Wayne Barker (Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre), Pat Lowe (author), Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman (animator), Erin Parke (journalist) and Michael Torres (photographer) spoke and encouraged discussion on their own work.  Participants then followed suit with highly engaging presentations on painting, pearl shell engraving, textile art and other specific art centre projects.

The final day was dedicated to practical activities. Participants received demonstrations in software designed for compiling audio, photography and video files into short films using iPads. This was followed by the completion of a filmed piece by each participant on their own artwork or art centre, all of which are now available to view on the Visual Arts Leadership Program section of the Desert River Sea website, as well as on Facebook. As first videos, they are impressive.

Several art centre managers have noted that participants have continued this process on their return home and are planning ways to screen these films for art centre visitors; others are keen to start recording family stories as well. Artists such as Garry Sibosado, working independently of art centres and without marketing support, were excited by the promotional potential of the videos for their own practice.

The Broome office would like to thank everyone involved in making this year’s event so rewarding, particularly the participants who were unflagging in their enthusiasm. We can’t wait to see what next year’s event brings!