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Scott Howie - the Riverina's vibrant creative sector

Scott Howie is the Executive Director of Eastern Riverina Arts and will soon take on the role of Artistic Director over a 12 month period, developing the Artstate Wagga Wagga cultural program. Scott brings a wealth of experience to his position, having worked with the arts sector in the Eastern Riverina his entire career as well as being a highly talented artist himself.

Tell us about your role at Eastern Riverina Arts

I’m the Executive Director at Eastern Riverina Arts … for a couple more weeks. Then I switch to a new role in Eastern Riverina Arts, as its Creative Producer for the next twelve months.  Not only will I be developing the Artstate cultural program but also producing and managing some of our projects that will be showcased there.

The role of the Executive Director is truly one of the most interesting, challenging, fun, odd, inspiring I have ever taken on. No two days are ever the same. Whether it is developing region-wide projects, having a chat with a young emerging artist, organising workshops, writing funding applications. I spend a lot of time on the road meeting with Councils, artists and volunteers from arts and cultural organisations. I spend a lot of my time at desk reporting and planning.

It’s a great job and I have been in the role nearly nine years. The thing I love most about the role is being able to watch artists, groups and projects grow and develop over the years and knowing that a little intervention by Eastern Riverina Arts might have set them on an amazing creative trajectory.

Describe the arts and culture scene in your region

From the edges of the Snowy Mountains, through the canola fields of the Riverina, to the wide open plains of central NSW, Eastern Riverina Arts supports arts and cultural development across our region from our base in Wagga Wagga.

The creative sector is really vibrant and buzzing in the Riverina at all levels from grass-roots participation through to some amazing creative industries. The diversity of the sector is huge, great visual artists, a growing live original music scene, some amazing festivals and internationally recognised arts organisations. Even the last Australian piano manufacturer is in our region. Over the last few years the region has been emerging as a key centre for innovative arts & disability practice. There is also been some really amazing public art projects and place-based and site-specific work.

We have cultural infrastructure across the region and some committed Councils with a very strong understanding of the value of the arts in making a place a great place to live.

What are some of the key opportunities and challenges for the arts in the Eastern Riverina? 

I love the idea of our region developing as a centre of excellence in culturally and linguistically diverse arts practise. We have an amazing diverse population from hundreds of countries. Some of the work coming out of the young people is mind-blowing.

Watching the reclamation of language by the Wiradjuri people is inspiring and I can’t wait to see how this will influence the work of Aboriginal artists.

The biggest challenge is how to grow the creative workforce in the region, ensuring opportunities for graduates from the University and TAFE to stay here and develop their practice and careers. Second to that is how to do we ensure authentic regional voices in the programming of our cultural infrastructure. We need to invest in our people, our artists as much as our buildings.

Wagga Wagga has recently been announced as the next host city for Artstate, with you taking on the role of Artistic Director. What can we expect from Artstate Wagga Wagga 2020?

The unexpected. I am keen to find ways in which we can really showcase the next wave of artists coming through, in all their boldness. I want new fresh voices sitting alongside the work of our established practitioners. I want to showcase our international and national collaborations and celebrate arts at the localest of local levels. And as Wagga Wagga now accepts the Wiradjuri meaning of its name as ‘place of celebration, dance’ there will be plenty of opportunities to cut a rug!