Arts in Regional NSW

Cherie Johnson, Within, Recycled electrical materials, sound, 15:26mins. Courtesy the artist and The Lock-Up, 2014, Photo: Harry Sideris

Cherie Johnson, Within, Recycled electrical materials, sound, 15:26mins. Courtesy the artist and The Lock-Up, 2014, Photo: Harry Sideris

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimated that at June 2013 just over one-third of NSW residents lived outside Greater Sydney (2.65 million).

Regional NSW is serviced by a network of cultural facilities including regional galleries, regional conservatoriums, performing arts centres and museums. These venues offer a mix of locally produced and touring arts activity. To complement this infrastructure, Arts NSW supports 14 Regional Arts Development Organisations that employ Executive Directors to promote local arts development across the State.

Two peak service organisations also support and nurture the arts and cultural workers of regional NSW. Regional Arts NSW is the peak advocacy and support organisation for arts in the regions. Museums & Galleries of NSW is the key sector support organisation for the small to medium museum and gallery sector.

As part of our commitment to ensure the state-wide delivery of arts and creative industries programs and services, Arts NSW supports arts in the regions in a number of ways. In 2012-13 the Arts Funding Program provided over $10 million for local governments, community and cultural organisations located in Regional NSW to support 123 individuals and organisations to deliver 180 programs/projects. This complements the role of local government which collectively is the largest investor in cultural programs and facilities in the state.

Local government funding for arts and heritage

In 2011-12 the ABS reported that local government funding for cultural activities was $1,342.3 million throughout Australia. Of this, the largest share was spent in NSW ($421.8 million including $58 million in capital investment).

Regional Arts NSW

Regional Arts NSW, which receives core program funding from Arts NSW, provides a range of services to and represents the state-wide network of Regional Arts Development Organisations in the key areas of advocacy, capacity building, communications and support. They also administer Arts NSW Small Grants Program for Local Arts under the Country Arts Support Program (CASP) and funds sourced from the Australia Council under the Regional Arts Fund (RAF).

Regional organisations and Executive Directors

There are 14 Regional Arts Development Organisations (RADOs) in NSW, each providing strategic direction for sustainable arts and cultural development in their region. Arts NSW contributes almost $2 million annually to support the RADO network.

Organisations include representatives from local government, tourism, education, arts councils and other community arts organisations and community members. Each employs a Executive Director and, in most instances, other staff who co-ordinate a cultural development program across the contributing local government areas in their region.

Recognising the key role played by the RADO network in delivering strategic support for arts and cultural development activities in regional NSW, Arts NSW commissioned an independent review of the network. The final report and Arts NSW response and implementation plan can be downloaded here.

Museums & Galleries of NSW (M&G NSW)

Museums & Galleries of NSW is funded by Arts NSW to deliver five key services to the small to medium sector. It manages tours of visual arts and crafts exhibitions and delivers professional and skills development programs to those who work and volunteer in the sector. It provides organisational development programs and undertakes research for and on behalf of the sector. It also devolved funds of behalf of the NSW Government to support the volunteer operated museums, provide mentorships, fellowships and volunteer placements, curatorial support for regional galleries and co-fund the museum advisor program with local government.

Regional galleries

There are over 50 galleries outside Sydney. They contain significant local collections and offer exhibitions from around the country and from overseas, working with local artists and communities and providing a strong network supporting the visual arts in the State. In 2014 the Tweed River Art Gallery opened the Margaret Olley Art Centre, a recreation of the artist’s Paddington studio. Other large regional galleries include Newcastle Art GalleryNew England Regional Art Gallery, Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, Bathurst Regional Gallery, Western Plains Cultural Centre and Wagga Wagga Gallery which also contains the National Glass Collection.

Regional museums

There are over 220 museums outside Sydney. They include a network of larger organisations such as Newcastle Museum, Museum of the Riverina and Age of Fishes Museum to smaller museums such as the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum and the Eden Killer Whale Museum.

Many community operated museums are focused on a telling of local history where as other specialise in particular areas such as Temora Aviation Museum. There are also a broad range of house museums and heritage sites operated by National Trust.

Aboriginal keeping place and cultural centres

There are almost 15 Aboriginal operated keeping places, artist centres and cultural centres located in Regional NSW that are open to the public on a regular basis. They provide a range of services including the running of programs and services for the local community, artist skills and development and the maintenance of material culture. Armidale and Region Keeping Place and Cultural Centre and Yarrawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre incorporating the Wadjar Gallery are two examples.

Regional conservatoriums

With funding through the Department of Education and Communities, the Regional Conservatoriums of NSW occupy a unique position within the state’s cultural framework. They connect with the community in providing education and training and performance opportunities. They also present concerts by local or visiting professional musicians.

Regional music festivals

There are over 100 diverse music festivals spread across regional NSW. Major commercial festivals include Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival, Splendour in the Grass and the Tamworth Country Music Festival. Other festivals cover a range of styles and regions, for example, Camden Haven Music Festival, Bangalow Music Festival, Four Winds – Bermagui and the New England Bach Festival. Tyalgum Festival – Showcases classical and contemporary musicians for the Northern NSW region and engages with the local community through interactive festival activities, street entertainment and concerts for families.

Writing and Literature

There are a number of festivals and resources to support literature and the writers in Regional NSW. Writers festivals such as Byron Bay Writers Festival, Southern Highlands Writers Festival and the National Young Writers Festival give writers and readers the opportunities meet, discuss works. There is a series of regional writers’ centres such as Northern Rivers Writers Centre and the New England Writers Centre that run a range of workshops and courses for those who wish to develop stronger writing skills. These and other events are often run in conjunction with the NSW Public Library network, bookshops, reading groups, film clubs, local history groups and various other segments of the community to promote writing and reading.

Regional performing arts organisations

Some of the state’s most dynamic performing arts companies are based in Regional NSW. These organisations include: Circus Monoxide, Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Hothouse Theatre, NORPA and Outback Theatre for Young PeopleThe Cad Factory is a regional multi-arts space located in Narranderra, NSW.

Performing arts venues

A network of 19 regional theatres also provide a mixture of locally produced and touring national and international productions covering dance, music and theatre. These included Civic Theatre in Newcastle, The Glasshouse in Port Macquarie and the Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre

State cultural institutions – regional activities and services

The State cultural institutions engage with Regional NSW with a focus on increasing organisations and communities access to the resources, expertise and collections of the cultural institutions. Institutions also draw upon the knowledge of regional communities and organisations and the collections held by them.

The cultural institutions tour exhibitions to regional areas and loan objects for inclusion in local exhibitions and provide advisory curatorial services to regional organisations. They also have websites that are specifically aimed at increasing access to services to off-site visitors, and provide development opportunities for staff and volunteers of regional cultural organisations and specific cultural communities, such as internships and mentorship programs and offering skill development workshops in regional areas.

Image – Cherie Johnson, Within, Recycled electrical materials, sound, 15:26mins. Courtesy the artist and The Lock-Up, 2014, Photo: Harry Sideris