Create NSW Interviews Arts Program Director, Adam Deusien
Artstate is a four-year project by Regional Arts NSW to shine a light on excellence in regional arts practice and to explore the exciting possibilities for arts and cultural development across the state. In 2018, Artstate is heading to the Central West, and partnering with Arts Outwest in Bathurst. From 1-4 November 2018 an exciting two-day program of speakers will explore the themes of A Sense of Place and Robust Regions accompanied by a diverse Arts Program featuring creatives from across the Central West of NSW.
Create NSW recently spoke to Arts Program Director, Adam Deusien in the lead up to the 2018 Artstate Conference and Festival.
You’re the Arts Program Director for Artstate Bathurst. Can you tell us about the 2018 Festival Program?
The Artstate Bathurt Festival is a four-day celebration of the excellence in arts and culture that lives in regional NSW. With events across theatre, music, visual arts, dance, screen and contemporary performance, the Arts Program is four days of the best of the best of contemporary arts from the Central West of NSW. As well as showcasing the region’s established and prolific artists, this year’s program reveals the ambition and potential of some of our most exciting young and emerging artists – showcasing the rising talent of the next generation of artists that have chosen to make regional NSW their artistic home. It’s an opportunity for the Central West community to celebrate the contemporary, challenging, entertaining and compelling arts that’s been made in their own home towns. It’s also a great privilege of mine to be able to say that, with only one exception, every event in the Festival is free!
Why is it important to you to be participating in this event?
Artstate is an incredible opportunity to showcase the breadth, depth and vitality of NSW regional arts practice to the rest of Australia. I grew up in Darwin, did my tertiary study in regional Australia and basically started my career in Bathurst, so being able to herald and champion the vibrant artists and communities out here, is a great honour.
In 2016 I was a recipient of the Create NSW Regional Arts Fellowship, which involved travelling to other major regional centres known for their arts and cultural offering. Last year I received Australia Council funding to undertake a residency in artistic and cultural leadership at Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre (BMEC). Through these opportunities, combined with my own arts practice, I’ve gathered multiple perspectives concerning the realities facing artists living outside a metro context. There’s not just one set of opportunities or one set of challenges, the experiences are very diverse. Leading the creation of the arts program has given me a place to do what I can to honour these diverse experiences.
What are you looking forward to seeing at Artstate Bathurst?
Literally everything! I know that’s a cop out, but I’ve managed to program the Festival so that if you’re a diehard arts fan, you can pretty much see everything if you want. There’s plenty of space in the program to chill out and explore Bathurst, but there’s also a pathway through the events that lets you catch everything and, if you’re like me, you can get excited running around town to soak it all up.
There’s a lot of new work in the Festival, so I can’t wait to see it all launched. There are artists-in-residence, including Harrie Fasher and Penelope Kentish at each of Bathurst’s world-class museums, who are creating new work; the world Premiere of the BMEC’s collaboration with ATYP The Climbing Tree and Nicole Welch’s Transformation is looking to be a very special installation.
Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and Tremain’s Mill will be home to several visual arts exhibitions, as will the Machattie Park Sculpture Walk. Amala Groom and Dale Collier will also be exhibiting work in the BMEC foyer, which provides a strong immediate link between the conference program and the Festival.
I’m also excited about the live music program at the Festival Club. From Thursday to Friday we’ve got some great local bands playing their original music from 9.15pm each night, as well as immersive theatre makers Big One Little One’s award-winning 90-second performance Confetti – performing for one audience member at a time. The Majellan Bowls Club is going to be lot of fun each night.
What do you hope audiences take away from the Festival?
I feel like there are two big audiences that come to Artstate. There’re artists, artsworkers and communities based in regional centres around the country that have a great knowledge of the challenges and benefits of an arts practice based outside the city. For these people, I hope it creates a stronger sense of community between regions and that these experiences are shared across the hundreds or thousands of kilometres that separate us, but also a collective pride that regional artists are contributing in a significant way in the national arts ecology.
The other audience is the metro-based artsworker, policy maker, funding and government representative that will come to join the conversation. Last year in Lismore I was thrilled to see so many of these people at the event and the dialogue that emerged between them and the artists based in the regions felt like it did a lot to create visibility for regional practitioners and communities.
Can you tell us about the artistic and cultural community in the Central West and who some of the up and coming artists and practitioners are?
In the Central West we have a robust community of established and professional artists, across all art forms and many of them are of course in the program. Alongside that though is a growing number of young and emerging artists choosing to stay in the regions and begin their careers outside the cities. In a lot of the discourse about regional arts practice I’ve noticed there’s an absence of conversation about what it means to start your career outside a big city, or to grow up here with strong artistic ambition.
We have a lot of those artists here in the Central West, and their story, which is different to those that move to the regions with established networks, is largely absent from a lot of regional arts discourse. Artstate has engaged many of these young artists as part of the program, providing a national platform for these ambitious and talented young artists, and the profile they deserve. Keep your eyes out for Johanna Williams & Jesse Alston’s Homekeeper, Penelope Kentish & Ben Rodwell’s The Beast, and Gabbit Bolt’s live music set at the Festival Club.
Why are events like Artstate integral to profiling and celebrating regional arts excellence?
One of the major challenges facing regional artists is visibility. It’s incredibly difficult to get audiences from beyond your immediate community, or to get representatives from more resourced, typically metro companies to travel to see your work, because it is difficult for them to bridge the gap of geography.
Artstate provides a concentrated space for audiences to access both the conversation and the artwork itself. I’ve been to quite a few over the years now and there’s something about the regional arts conferences and festivals that’s different to other sector gatherings. There’s an optimism, a joy at being able to share the many great successes and discuss solutions to the challenges and a sincere appreciation that for a few days, the isolation that regional practice can create, dissolves and is replaced with a true sense of community. Regional Australia continues to be nurturing, vibrant and fertile ground for contemporary Australian arts practice, and Artstate is vital tool in celebrating this.