We had our first meeting for the space this year, aptly titled “What To Do With WAYOUT?” and had approximately 14 artists from across regional NSW show up to put their two bob into the pot and help mix the metaphor. It was impressive to see artists from The Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Dubbo, Wagga, Kandos and Bathurst come together to discuss what we might be getting ourselves into. We talked in 43 degree heat with only two little fans that we couldn’t seem to direct properly to relieve anyone but the person directly in front of it. And still the meeting lasted for two hours. In that time a lot of ideas were thrown into the air and batted around the room.
True to the spirit of Cementa, community engagement was a large part of the conversation. It was a lively discussion as we grappled with what Community Engagement even means. Cheree Edwards made the point that with community engagement, the project needed to begin with what the community wanted, and not arise out of what visiting contemporary artists might want or think the community needs. It needs to begin from the culture of the community and then develop along the lines of enquiry that an artist might bring. Alex Wisser replied to this that he would be very happy to have community members use the space for activities that had nothing to do with art, that their being in the same space as artists would organically create opportunities for common ground and potentials for collaboration that aren’t possible when community engagement is a mandated and intentional enterprise. Leo Cremonese took the conversation in another direction, admitting that community engagement was important, but we needed to not forget that sometimes an artist just wants to make their work and that every project doesn’t have to include the community. Georgie Pollard then piped in that sometimes the community just wants to be left alone, and that not everyone wants to be consulted, participated, or otherwise involved.
There were heaps of ideas and some very good conversation. In the end we decided we needed to come up with a process for soliciting proposals (WAYOUT is open to applications from artists from across Australia and Internationally) and we also decided we needed to call a working bee and paint the walls of the space. As with anthything ARI, it will be a long, organic unwinding of what we can do in the general direction of what we want to do. Still, it is a promising start, so full of excitement and enthusiasm.
Next up was our community consultation for Cementa19. We were pretty happy with the crowd we pulled. It was mentioned that everyone in the room had some stake in the festival. It wasn’t exactly true, but I think what was trying to be said is that we didn’t get any of the festival detractors. This was true. I thought this year was a more diverse group than usual and there was definitely a willingness to offer critique. We are grateful that this critique came with robust conversation about how we might improve the festival. Two ideas that were very well received was the idea of having a sub group of teachers and parents to help us better organise activities involving Kandos youth that could then contribute to the festival and of having an opening night parade of both artists and locals showing off the creative capacity of both cultures side by side (with maybe a healthy dose of competition thrown in)
After the Community Consult, we gathered together to open the first exhibition at WAYOUT for 2020. What can we say about DISQUIET. Well first it takes a huge thank you to Georgina Pollard and Leo Cremonese for leading the charge on this one, curating and hanging the show. Walls were moved and spack filled, sanded and painted. Paintings were hung and sculptures arranged. Thank you to the two wonderful artists melanie e khava and Gordon Smith for the work they put into both the art and the preparation of the space. Disquiet is a surprising harmonious exhibition considering it draws on two very different artists who work with high frequency forms that had every chance of fighting (the art, not the artists. The artists are lovely people). To the contrary, the work sits together in an almost generous exchange. Much credit to the curators and artists for a strong hang. One visitor was overheard commenting that the exhibition was like the art. We agree.