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Introducing Cathy Farry, Executive Director at West Darling Arts: The broad horizons west of The Darling

This month we introduce the Executive Director for West Darling Arts, Cathy Farry.

Spanning across a region of more than 178,000km2, West Darling Arts is the largest Regional Arts Development area, but with the smallest population.

With many creatives living in small and isolated communities, Cathy spends a large portion of her time on the road, visiting the various cultural horizons that lay west of The Darling River.

From bluegrass and country music to Barkandji influenced art practice and Broken Hill’s renowned “Broken Heel” drag festival, the arts and culture across this region is as broad and diverse as the land it covers!

 

Tell us about your role at West Darling Arts?

My role at West Darling Arts as Executive Director involves a broad range- from working with artists, arts organisations, local councils and regional development, through to developing connections and networks in the region. We deliver projects, and as we are a very small team (1.5 of us), it can occasionally be very hands on – from delivering art and grant writing workshops through to picking up and delivering artworks across our region. I make sure that I visit each location regularly and am usually on the road every second week or so. We are located in the historic Town Hall Façade in Broken Hill and we are fortunate to have a gallery that we curate, where we display and sell works by artists of the region.

 

West Darling Arts covers a large area of land and communities – Does the arts and cultural scene, dynamics and demands change in each community across the region? If so, how and why?

WDA has the largest geographic area of all of the Regional Arts Development Organisations at around  178 000 km2 but also the smallest population of just 28 000 so there is a lot of space.

Each town and village in the Far West NSW has its own very distinct “personality”. Some of the smaller towns are very isolated, and are only accessible by dirt roads. Most people live in Broken Hill and Wentworth Shire which have good access to arts and culture. Broken Hill has a number of arts organisations, a beautiful regional art gallery and many small private artist run galleries and film making is very important to the town. Wentworth is home to number of professional artists and musicians and is very close to Mildura, just over the border in Victoria. Other towns such as Tibooburra, near the Queensland border and 300 km north of Broken Hill, has a number of public art works and an amazing pub with murals by artists Clifton Pugh, Rick Amor and Russell Drysdale. The fascinating town of White Cliffs, where most of the population live underground in “dugouts”, is an opal mining town hosts an annual music festival and a biennial arts festival which is a huge draw card for people to visit this community. Much of the far west is Barkandji Country, so there are many talented Aboriginal artists that span through communities such as Wilcannia, Menindee, Broken Hill, Dareton and Wentworth. Some of the smaller, isolated towns have very little access to the arts on a regular basis, and distance is always an often challenge that we face.

 

What are some of the key highlights, events and projects you are most looking forward to this year for West Darling Arts?

There’s a lot that happens throughout the year across WDA. Some of the major highlights include the colourful Broken Heel Festival – Broken Hill’s annual Drag festival, held the first weekend in September that celebrates the theatrical anniversary of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” at her spiritual home; The Palace Hotel and Broken Hill. There is also The White Cliffs Music Festival in May – a great highlight of country and bluegrass music.

Last year WDA was focused on consultation with the arts and cultural communities of the year, so this year will see us develop a strategic plan that will help us to address the artistic and cultural needs of the region. Some of the projects that we are especially excited to deliver include taking some Opera into the more isolated schools of the region; working on public sculptures along the route that Captain Sturt took on his journey to inland; and making films with local Aboriginal artists that will document how and where they find materials that are used to create objects such as boomerangs, nulla nullas and coolamons.

It’s shaping up to be another great year and we can’t wait to share it with you all!