Hunter arts and culture snapshot

Some of our State’s greatest stories are inspired and created by the people and the landscapes of regional NSW.

It is our regional artists who have bought us so much in the way of innovative theatre, dance, award-winning books, music and films, and the celebration of Aboriginal traditional culture and contemporary stories.

With regional NSW being the largest and most significant regional economy of any Australian state, it features centrally in Arts NSW’s ambitions and planning. This is reflected in the NSW Government’s Arts and Cultural Policy Framework: Create in NSW.

On 16 October 2015 Deputy Premier Troy Grant announced $1.6 million (over three years) in NSW Government funding to support high quality and innovative arts and cultural initiatives in 2016 for the Hunter region.

This support is provided under the Arts and Cultural Development Program (ACDP), which aims to deliver a dynamic and diverse range of cultural experiences to communities across NSW.

The spectrum of artists, organisations, projects and programs flooding the Hunter is truly impressive and is a vital platform for national and international audiences to experience what the region has on offer. It provides opportunities to grow local economies, attract investment, support business growth and importantly, create liveable and lively communities.

Arts NSW sees great opportunity for local arts organisations and communities to lead the development of new creative precincts and the ACDP funding will help improve the viability of the Hunter’s local arts and cultural organisations, not to mention create new markets and audiences for artists.

Tantrum Youth Arts

For instance, Tantrum Youth Arts is the leader of the pack when it comes to youth performing arts. For 40 years Tantrum has been developing youth arts programs with and for the young people of Newcastle and the Hunter.

Tantrum can pretty much be summed up in one word: collaboration.

The value of collaboration is a key driver influencing how Tantrum conducts its business. Tantrum nurtures artists at any stage of their artistic journey from being expressive children and young people, through to emerging as an artist and pursuing a professional career. It operates within a framework that supports and connects each of these stages.

In the last five years, Tantrum has focused on developing contemporary, site-specific work that resonates strongly with local audiences. In 2014, Diving off the Edge of the World, located at Newcastle Ocean Baths, received a City of Newcastle Drama Award for Best Special Theatrical Event, and in 2015 Stories in Our Steps, a performative walking tour down Watt Street sold out its entire season.

A number of successful artists and theatre-makers have developed their skills at Tantrum. Director Leticia Caceres and playwright Lachlan Philpott are former Artistic Directors. Contemporary performance collectives Big One Little One and Paper Cut met and began developing their creative practises at Tantrum.

Although Tantrum’s home base is in Newcastle, previous, current and future artistic programs include outreach projects in Lake Macquarie, the Upper Hunter, and the Central Coast.

Further evidence that Tantrum is demonstrating best practice theatre-making.

Arts NSW is providing multi-year program funding ($255,000 over the next three years) to Tantrum Youth Arts.

The Lock Up

In the other side of town is The Lock-Up (TLU), a multidisciplinary contemporary arts space known as an inner city hub for creative thinking and doing.

In 2014, TLU re-launched with a new artistic vision and it is packing a punch. Enabled by a new Board of Trustees, informed by extensive community and industry consultation, and building on the organisation’s previous successes including its nationally renowned AIR residency program, TLU was re-imagined.

Through a high quality curated program of exhibitions, events, public programs and residencies, TLU aims to develop audiences and promote current, cross platform, experimental and diverse practice from local, national and international artists.

Designed to engage, challenge and inspire, TLU’s 2016 – 2018 program brings the best in contemporary creative practice from around the country to Hunter Region audiences and shows the work of locally based creatives within a national context.

Since re-launching TLU has welcomed over 10,000 visitors, effectively doubling attendance in less than its first twelve months of operation in its new form.

TLU’s vision is to sit on the national stage as a key contemporary arts organisation. Since reopening TLU is moving quickly towards that vision, attracting a phenomenal level of support and interest from both the local arts community and from artists and arts organisations from around the country.

Established and emerging Hunter Region based artists will feature across the program including a major solo exhibition of new work by award winning painter Nigel Milsom (Winner: Archibald Prize 2015).

Building on the success of the 2015 Art Bender and continuing the series, Beat Bender will be a two-day music festival with a difference. Featuring invited headline acts with a local connection, the event presents collaborations between musicians, artists and designers.

New partnerships with Newcastle Writers Festival, Catapult Dance and Blacktown Arts Centre build program depth and diversity, create important strategic creative networks and develop new audiences.

Longstanding partnerships with University of Newcastle and Hunter TAFE, will see public program events and workshops developed in consultation with education staff to encourage tertiary student participation.

TLU not only provides a venue, co-promotion and volunteer assistance but it is enabling the ongoing success and sustainability of aligned cultural organisations, building audiences and developing the vision of TLU as a creative hub.

Arts NSW is providing annual program funding ($98, 300) to The Lock-Up.

Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery

Community is at the heart of the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery’s (LMCAG) artistic programming and strategic vision – be it as collaborators, participants, creators or as audience.

LMCAG research tells us that of the 33,200 people visiting the gallery on average annually, 48 per cent are from Lake Macquarie, 26 per cent from Newcastle, and the remaining 26 per cent are tourists (3 per cent international).

The LMCAG strategy is to mainly support local artists within its projects. It also engages local curators, in particular emerging curators, and a significant number of artists/educators involved in the public programming are also Hunter based.

In addition, LMCAG have developed strong relationships with near-by cultural organisations such as Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Newcastle Art Gallery and Museum and The Lock-Up in order to further develop artistic and cultural programs that celebrate all things local whilst also extending their collective national audience in the region.

I think it is fair to say LMCAG are sharing the love and doing great things for the Hunter region.

Another LMCAG stand out strength is their consistent Aboriginal programming that is developed in partnership with the Aboriginal Reference Group (ARG). Over the past 15 years the gallery and ARG have presented over 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander -specific projects and at least 60 per cent of the general exhibitions include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content.

Through workshops and exhibitions, artists and the community are encouraged to explore Aboriginal art ‘beyond the dot’, while respecting cultural protocols. Leading on from (in)visible: the First Peoples and war (March 2015) and Birabahn and Thelkeld: Life’s Mission (late 2015) LMCAC will be developing Migration Stories (2017) which will explore the history of migration in the area – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.

Arts NSW is providing multi-year program funding ($330,000 over the next three years) to Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery.

Tantrum Theatre, The Lock Up and Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery offer a snapshot of the diverse and innovative organisations that Arts NSW supports through the Arts and Cultural Development Program.  For a full list of Hunter funded programs and projects please click here.

The assessment of applications to the Arts and Cultural Development Program has been completed.  Progressive announcements of successful applications are now being made and the full release is expected before the end of October. Arts NSW will contact all organisations once announcements are made.

If you wish to discuss your application with Arts NSW staff, please contact Arts Development and Investment on or Freecall 1800 358 594 (within NSW).



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Published: 19 October 2015