Tuesday, September 3, 2013

An eclectic life...just the way I like it!

It seems that I haven't been home much lately. Most weeks I am working in the north of the state working with students from the Tasmanian Polytechnic or more recently, showing 3 designs as part of Interweave Arts Streets Alive Remade Fashion Show. This latest experience reinforced my commitment to supporting and promoting others, rather than being in the spotlight myself. The catwalk experience was terrifying.

I have driven the Midland Highway thousands of times over the last 27 years , so it is a familiar path; past the stumps that look like faces, the trees that look like lollipops and the bits of road that are nostalgic for one reason or another.

The turn off to the East Coast always reminds me of summer holidays when mum would pack us four kids and the dog in the Kingswood (an ex police car) and we would drive for hours before reaching Scamander. Falling out of the car in the dark we could smell the salty air and hear the crashing waves of the nearby Beaumaris Beach.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Do the arts matter in a federal election?

Jami Bladel from Kickstart Arts, Robert Jarman from Blue Cow and yours truly had a bit of a chat about art on ABC Local Radio in Hobart last week. Have a listen and tell me what you think about arts funding in Australia.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Joy of Failure?

Sometimes it feels like life is a series of complicated situations and failures that we must negotiate. In-between the icky bits we savour those beautiful sweet moments that keep us fueled  I am lucky enough to connect on an almost daily basis with inspiring and interesting individuals who fill me up and remind me of what is important in life.

I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit – I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.        -Ernest Hemingway

Over the past few weeks I met some such individuals who own and manage some of the most innovative manufacturing companies in Tasmania. Situated on the North West Coast of Tasmania in Devonport, Penguin, Burnie and the surrounding area, many of them produce and sell to and for local, interstate and international markets. It was fascinating listening to their stories about tenacity, hard work, ideas and people. By the end of the two days there were some common themes running through the conversations. Many of these industrious and clever individuals left school in year 9 or 10 to pursue their dream that often revolved around making, growing or building something. But there is nothing modest about the operations of these producers and manufacturers. In fact, most have businesses with international reach and plans for major growth and redevelopment. Needless to say that the experience of entering their world was fascinating and inspiring.
Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.     - Steve Jobs (1955 – )

The lessons to be learnt from these clever people are many, but the recurring and reassuring themes included:

  • surround yourself with positive people
  • 'you gottawannadoit' – a catch cry from successful entrepreneur Dale Elphinstone
  • you have to keep modifying and improving your product, responding to the market and updating to address competitors.
  • Take the word 'can't' out of your vocabulary
  • Be focused on what you want to do and be passionate and finally the biggie...
  • don't be afraid to fail

WHAT? Failure.
Innovative and idealistic thinkers may tell us that failure is vital for our growth and success, and a normal part of life it really is not something embraced in day to day life. Even before we bring our first school reports home in Grade 1 we have learnt the reward of success and the disappointment that surrounds failure. Let's face it, not only are we generally pretty bad at failing, but what is worse is our response to failure. We denigrate others, ourselves, we sulk, question everything and often go into complete avoidance.

Sport is not something I usually watch. In fact the TV was muted when I noticed the young footballer being interviewed. It was his demeanour that first drew my attention. He was being asked about the recent game and the substantial loss his team had suffered. While he was obviously disappointed it was his response that got me thinking more about how we deal with and respond to failure.

'Someone has to lose', he said when asked about the teams performance. He went on to talk about what they could improve on and take from the loss; what do they do next. It got me thinking about sporting teams and how they approach failure. There were qualities in the footballer that I had seen in the North West entrepreneurs. They reflect on their performance, respond, make some changes, pull up there socks and get on with the next idea or task.

Business owners risk everything by investing their own money into ideas and projects. While they may do their environmental scans and risk analysis, ultimately they must be prepared to respond to failure; through economic downturn, change in trends, competition etc. The ability to ride this failure, to get up and have another go, is incredibly inspiring. It is a quality that is needed in the non profit sector, including the arts. There is a confidence amongst these hard working passionate people that is GOLD and I believe we can learn a great deal from them.

I came away from the North West wondering how we could learn from entrepreneurs and successful business people-especially those who fail. How do we get them in front of producers, managers and arts companies who are looking to get off the reliance on government funding? How do we embrace difference in how we all communicate; ask the 'stupid' questions? And how do we invest in our ideas, take a risk and prepare ourselves when failure hits.

Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.     -Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Art Trails

Lately it feels like there has been so little time to write. It's moments like that when I long for technology to steam ahead and invent the chip that can be inserted into our brains and can download the story, article or thoughts ready for publication. But being a relatively lazy Sunday morning and seeing Zeus, the beautiful cat, is happy to stay in bed, I am finally in a space to put pen to paper (so to speak).

I've just returned from a few days in Melbourne, a city that gives me an enormous amount of visual and aural stimulation. There seems to be art everywhere; in the landscapes, the architecture, the food and the people. I trod the pavements; shopping in those high end places I had never dared to enter and having new experiences. One of which was the obligatory Peking duck experience. A little restaurant in Brunswick where duck was their speciality. Like many such restaurants the d├ęcor was pretty bland, but the skill of the waiter was astounding. He sliced off crispy delicious pieces of succulent duck for us to wrap in our almost transparent pancakes, The taste was sensational.
Some of the Melbourne CBD art

It wasn't difficult to find interesting artists. I happened upon many arts experiences; an exhibition of fashion at Federation Square, a groovy Jazz club decked out as an opium den and a cooperative of artisans inhabiting one of the many laneways.

Only days before heading to Melbourne I spent 4 days on the West Coast of Tasmania. I was meeting with the Councillors to discuss the benefits of a local council having an arts strategy. Just a week before at a local government managers and mayors meeting in Launceston there had been a unanimous agreement to establish an MOU between Tas Regional Arts and the Local Government Association of Tasmania. The demand for our work in local government had increased and it was a natural and welcome progression.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What do you want?

In 2008 I was lucky enough to be part of one of the last intakes of the Arts Administration course that was being offered by TAFE Tasmania (before the change to the Polytechnic). By the way, this TAFE course that was taught by Dr Jane Deeth (Consultant) and Sarah McCormack (Stompin) was brilliant. I sat alongside musicians, artists, writers, educators and managers who all benefited from the insight, learning and networks. For me the year long course provided an opportunity to research an idea I had been thinking about for a while. I had been painting since I was around 23 and writing since I was a kid, so I had tasted the bitter sweetness of selling work, painting commissions and the absolute joy of creating something through at times a meditative process that left me completely contented. It is such a pleasure to be able to make and create.

A background in communication, marketing and community development had also given me insight into the broader world of the artist or performer. There was an still is an expectation for them to be able to do it all; market, manage and make, and the isolation that can cripple individuals and see stacks of amazing work being stored in dusty backrooms. I don't agree with this. I mean, it's great if you can do it and it doesn't impact on the work you are making, but, we need to acknowledge that there is a need for other approaches.

This is why I started my business in 2008. It was to support anyone with an arts idea to make it happen. The 'old guard' laughed, saying "you'll never make any money from it', but the artists that I had been talking with loved the idea. It's probably worth noting here that money has never been my driving motivator, which is probably best.

As soon as I started talking about the business there was interest in it and since then I have worked with more than 20 individuals and groups in a range of ways. It's been a roller coaster ride and I feel incredibly lucky to have met and worked with so many amazing artists.

My work is supported by others in Australia and internationally. I brought Dr Ernesto Sirolli to Tasmania in 2010 to speak a the Regional Arts Australia conference in Launceston. His model is based on building the team you need, like any entrepreneur. He absolutely condones following your passion and inviting others to bring the other skills. I was lucky enough to undertake the Sirolli Trinity of Management Training which just fueled my belief that I was on the right track.

To enable me to put food on the table, I have had to mix it up and work for organisations to supplement my income. This has included Screen Tasmania, local councils and most predominately Tasmanian Regional Arts. I have been lucky in TRA that the flexibility and direction of this organisation aligns well with my private Creative Coaching work. However, my passion and commitment to the individual maker has not waned and it is time to reflect on what has been done and what is the next step.

Is there a need for someone in the type of role I undertake? A Creative Coach (pardon the term, but it's the best description for what I do) that provides an objective eye and support in marketing, planning, distribution, grant writing etc. 

It's time for me to find our more and plan the next stage of this work, so please respond to the question on my blog and let me know what you want. Also, feel free to tell me more by commenting on this blog post. I thank all who I have had the privilege to meet and work with and look forward to finding better ways. xK

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tasmanian Leaders Program

There is never enough time in a day to do everything we want. But I am lucky enough to be in a job and have chosen a lifestyle that enables me to create, enable, facilitate and explore.
I had been observing the Tasmanian Leaders Program for a couple of years before applying last year. Why did I apply?

Well, if I have learnt nothing else in this fascinating and challenging life, it is that I never stop learning; from people, experiences, places and myself. Surely it is arrogant to believe that we cannot keep learning. So I jumped in and luckily received the social enterprise scholarship to undertake the year long program.

So far it has been fantastic. It began with a 3 day residency at Strahan on the West Coast and then a couple of weeks ago we (the 24 of us from across the state) had a 2 day program at Parliament House where we heard from 23 speakers including Dr Natasha Cica, Dr Tony McCall and David O’Byrne. All three of these I have a connection with; Natasha and I were previously neighbours, Tony and I have shared many a drink with his lovely wife Roisin and David and I performed together in Gambit Youth Theatre in Launceston, many, many, many years ago. Tasmania is a very small place at times.

Already I have felt the benefit of being in an environment that thinks big, really big. This is so refreshing. It is equally so, to be presented with the real picture of the state; what is working, what isn’t, what could be better-what is possible. I will keep you in the loop with how the TLP progresses but so far…so good.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Writing about art

Jo Angeley's Rainbow Tree
I have just posted an article about the artists involved in the Shadows program, a loose collective of environmental artists who have contributed work to a number of major Tasmanian festivals. Read all about it at WriteResponse

Sunday, January 13, 2013

ART; A soft place to land

This Christmas was a reminder to me that on these occasions when so many are gathered with loved ones, friends and family, there are people who are alone and experiencing hardship. For some Christmas is a painfully long day to fill with television watching or other distractions to avoid the whole affair. There is no table laden with food, gifts or people to hug. For some it is a reminder of what is missing in their lives; a partner, children, a family or friends.

For me it was the first Christmas where I wasn't part of my own little family. While incredibly lucky to be with my daughter and part of a larger celebration with beautiful siblings, nieces and nephews the realisation that I was no longer part of a discreet family unit hit me like a punch in the guts. And I am sure I was not alone.

It is at times like this, when days seem long and painful, that I find such solace in the arts and creativity. First I turned to journaling; dumping the toxic, negative and chaotic thoughts onto endless white pages. Pages that will disappear; decay into the days, months and years ahead. Pages that I may, one day, be able to look back at philosophically.
Rainbow Tree by Jo Anglesey
installed at Falls Festival,
Marion Bay

But the arts had more in store for me. I automatically shelved any music with lyrics; choosing instead to opt for classical, operatic or world music (in foreign languages). It provided the perfect soundtrack to my journey, rather than taking me on the angst ridden emotional roller coaster linked to those familiar pop and rock tunes that can send one spiraling into nostalgia, sadness and self pity.

Artist friends of mine encouraged me to draw-just draw anything. Without intention I began with mandala's and from there something wonderful happened. Images, words, colours exploded onto the piles of paper and led me to pull our canvases and continue old works, while creating new ones. It was wonderful.

Sometimes in the depths of your own dark days, serendipity can present wonderful opportunities. I was lucky enough to be part of other people's art. This began on 22nd December with a trip to Marion Bay the site of The Falls Festival in Tasmania. Invited by Ralf Haertel, co-curator of the Shadow Program, this was a wonderful opportunity to meet with Tasmanian environmental artists who have once again produced some beautiful work. What an absolutely privilege to be welcomed so warmly. I cannot express my gratitude. For more details about this visit the WriteResponse reviewing site.

On the 4th of January I traveled to Triabunna on the East Coast of Tasmania to open the Gallery of Small Works Exhibition. Held at Gallery Artspaces and organised by local entrepreneur, Sue Nettlefold, this was a great idea that saw Tasmanian artists responding to the call for small canvas paintings. A small crowd gathered on the night and I walked away with 3 small oil paintings by Launceston based painter Darren Meader. He sold all his works on the night and to be honest I could have bought more. He paints lovely textured oil paintings that are best appreciated 2-3 metres from the work. This is where one can fully appreciate the beauty, technique and sense of light and movement in these works. The paintings are on sale for $100 each with a percentage from the commission contributing towards a new arts space in Triabunna, which is itself a buzzing arts community.

One of the hundreds of girl guides
typing old-school at
the Gorge, Launceston
Back home and more drawing, painting, writing and now I added sewing to my repetoire. But it wasn't long before I was on the road again, this time to Launceston to be part of a collective of artists contributing towards the huge gathering of Girl Guides-FanTAStic 2013. I had sourced 2 old portable typewriters and the plan was for me to run quick sessions with small groups of guides-a little bit of creative writing and some interviewing. It was a great day and I was amazed at the response from the guides. Most had never seen a typewriter before and were looking for the enter and correction keys. I loved it too-sitting under the trees at the Gorge-just beautiful. And let's just say that it has sparked a flurry of activity with me trying to find an old typewriter to write on. Believe me, there is something just fantastic about typing straight onto paper and seeing it there in front of you. Not waiting for the printer and not needing electricity. So fingers crossed, I hope to find a retro typewriter very soon. 

This gathering of artists was inspiring. There was some beautiful work created and I felt incredibly humbled to be included in the activities. Big thanks to Kim Schneiders and the team for making it all happen.

While I have returned home again, the creativity doesn't stop. Today I designed and made a new shirt from some old material lying about, finished a kimono style dressing gown created from recycled op shop clothes and am working on a couple of art reviews I want to finish from the Falls experience. How lucky am I. All this is such a comforting and welcome reminder that no matter what changes in my life, my art and creativity provides a warm, soft place for me to land. It welcomes and supports me, never judges and is always accessible.

With recent bush fires that have destroyed so much, it is a reminder of the importance of art and creativity for the individual and for the broader community. It can be a fantastic tool for debriefing, story telling and healing. At times when we cannot find the words to express how we are feeling, art can accommodate, allowing us to stay quiet on the outside while expressing our grief and trauma. And importantly it doesn't discriminate-art and creativity is available to all of us, if we are willing to be open to it and accept that there is no right or wrong, no good or bad-it just IS.

Although, I can't completely dismiss the chances that I may resort to Bridget Jones's remedy of Chaka Khan and vodka, for the time being I choose creativity as my therapy and welcome each artistic opportunity that presents itself to me. I wish you all well for 2013-it is going to be an amazing year. xxx

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