Times are a changin’.

As one chapter closes…

Here we are, two years and eight columns later. It’s the time my dear readers. I’m saying goodbye. This is my last column… Why? Well, for art’s sake!

If you asked ‘What industry am I in?’, I’d say, ‘All of them and none of them’, which makes me an artist. If I really had to define my industry, then I’d have to say that I’m in the industry of change. I’m a space hunter.

Art is an industry of change and when it’s not, it becomes an industry to power the ego machine, where instead of exploring new spaces of consciousness and the unknown, you guard the patch you’ve just happened to burrow in because you deprived your younger competition of any oxygen to survive.

This, my friends (and people who read this column for damage control planning), is why we don’t legitimate arts education pathways or frameworks for emerging art in our region. Last year at Federation University, we saw the rise and fall of an arts education revolution. This year I’ve played with the institutions in the big smoke that are designed to support us. I can report that they care but they find the challenges that face regional artists overwhelming and need a clear message on how they can help us. Now I’m happy to report that we have a rebellion on our hands, one that I personally plan on leading.

I’d like to think that over the past two years I’ve managed to wriggle my way into the ear holes of our Gippslandia readers and made a little space for the voice of art. In doing so, I’ve also created a little space in this paper for a powerful platform to advocate, educate and inspire a new bold vision for arts in Gippsland.

I’ve been very surprised with where the impact of this column has landed. Yes, into the laps of those savouring a coffee at a local café, but more interestingly boardrooms, galleries, committee meetings and councils. I only know this because I’ve heard the shocked ‘Is this really true?’ whispers. This has been a wonderful gift and also one of the main reasons I originally picked up a camera — you can see the transformation over time, as the echo of this column is lasting.

From these regular 1500 words, I’ve gained the title of ‘published writer’, under the guidance of a wonderful editor, and this has opened doors in the real world. I’ve vented 15 years of anger, made some big call-outs that have paid off, sometimes with small improvements and sometimes with radical change to our region, but most of all I’ve gained the confidence that the ideas and voices of Gippsland’s youth can be heard and make a change.

So now that I’ve climbed the mountain, faced the lions and roared with the creative beasts, I’ve found that I’ve not died, but thrived. I’m ready to finally start my soul goal and write a book on all the steps I’ve taken to get here today. God, I sound like I’m 100 years old!

I’d like to hand this column over to someone much younger, more relevant and angrier, who actually is a writer (she can spell!) and has a vision that I believe in. A vision that I have backed since she walked into my studio two years ago and demanded I let her work for me, and by ‘work for me’, I mean that I actually worked for her to print her brilliant exhibition. Kaitlyn is 18 years old and is ruthlessly honest. Now she’ll have the opportunity that was given to me. I hope you will consider her thoughts, feelings and ideas about the future of arts in Gippsland as earnestly as you did mine. I look forward to using her newly inked words in each edition as a measuring stick for how the rebellion is tracking. Judging by her opening column, I feel you are in safe hands!


You can see, edit and give me feedback as my book is released a chapter per month at www.patreon.com/pollyannar.

another chapter begins.

Gippsland is a beautiful region. We have the most amazing landscapes I’ve ever seen, and everything within such close vicinity. We have a 90-mile-long beach, we have bushland, we have small towns, and the most interesting people live here — it’s such a diverse community.

Yet, the fascination with the city is always present. But do you know where else is a city? Sale. I think growing up and spending most of my adolescence here has made me begin to acknowledge the potential this baby city has.

But the people of Sale need to step up their game. We’ve just had billions of dollars spent on a new arts facility. The shire did their bit, and kudos to them for doing such a good job, but art communities don’t build themselves. People need to be engaging with the space. Artists need to bind together to start creating and conversing with the people who are hosting events. You don’t need to choof off to Melbourne to have a successful career. It’s here, waiting for you.

I’m an artist from Heyfield and within the last twelve months, I’ve had nine shows, both rural in and metro venues. Of course, the shows in the city gained more traction, but that’s because people are willing to leave their homes to experience the world and interact physically with the arts.

When hosting shows, there’s an immense fear people aren’t going to turn up, and a lot of the time they don’t, but this is where something has to give. You can’t expect a change overnight, but we have to start somewhere. There is an abundance of creative people in this region, both young and old, and we have the opportunity to utilise their knowledge to build momentum in the arts. We are living in an isolated area, and people need to come together and overcome the fear of judgement. We need to change this.

The spaces in Melbourne creating change didn’t start from nothing. They started because people had a passion for art, and it was received well. Leave your preconceived notion that events here are shit behind you, and go with an open mind. People are working on little to no budget, and, honestly, if you want to see a change, your support is excruciatingly necessary. If you don’t think rural communities have a chance in the arts, take a look at Bendigo. Their art gallery is amazing, their collection is stunning, they’re hosting music festivals and they’ve just had White Night up there. It’s beautiful and full of a fresh outlook.

Absorbing your surroundings and experiencing new things is a vital part of being creative. It fuels you. I completely understand why people are feeling so stagnant within this area. It’s not an uncommon feeling. The goal should no longer be to finish year 12 and leave, as leaving isn’t fixing anything. Moving to Melbourne is lazy.

I know it’s a shock, but there are young artistic people living in this region, and they’re killing it! Jes John, for example, just opened Snap Alley in Bairnsdale, and is hosting Frouteville festival every year. The F. INC. girls are killing it. Ella Anderson hosted Fruit of the Poetry at the Bond Street Event Centre in September. The Sale Propellor group are killing their events. These people are making a difference for the next generation.

We understand that mental health care needs to be improved around here, and it’s because we’re lacking personal connections, which are so vital. I’m sure every person who enjoys art can have an idea for an arts event. Let’s pursue them, as the timing is simply never going to be ‘right’, but it’s better than it has ever been, so stop being afraid of failure. If you fail in Sale, nobody is going to remember it, but if you succeed, it’s going to last.

Art encourages conversation. You can go to a gallery, look at a painting and discuss what you see. Through these discussions, you can begin to notice new details, and you automatically feel more intelligent after picking up small meanings in paintings, as well as a connection with a painter.

Live music is another point of connection. Dancing is the silent communication — bodies moving. Being able to dance to some party rock that someone is sharing with you through their performance, the crowd being so into the music that you don’t need to support your body weight, that’s the height of connection at these events. The question is, why aren’t they happening more? Why aren’t we booking local bands under the age of 30 at pubs?

Youth are the facilitators for change. We can get them eager and excited to engage. If you want a successful event, hold it for people under 30, then book someone who’s indie enough that they’re not hard to book, but still cool and appealing, so people show up. Do anything. Don’t feel limited by your age or your socioeconomic background. Beg, borrow or steal to make it happen. That’s the passion we need.

Heading off to Melbourne doesn’t change anything. It’s cheating. Build it from the ground up, and you’ll appreciate it so much more. This community, this tiny community, will eventually form, and it will grow.

You can make jobs in the arts for yourself. It’s all possible if you just grow a backbone and push through.
Change is coming.

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