ARTS OUTWEST (CENTRAL WEST) REGIONAL SNAPSHOT 2014
The Central West covers an area of 48,313 square kilometres and has a total population of 177,740. The area features agricultural land and bushland including national parks. Major rivers include the Lachlan and the Macquarie. The region extends from the Central Tablelands to the Western Plains.
Economic drivers include agriculture, mining, health services, education and manufacturing. The region’s proximity to Sydney and Canberra is an asset. Parts of the region are known for wine and food. Almost all of the area is recognised as Wiradjuri land.
The region includes twelve Local Government Areas (LGAs) – Bathurst, Blayney, Cabonne, Cowra, Forbes, Lachlan, Lithgow, Oberon, Orange, Parkes, Weddin and Wellington. The two major centres of the region are Orange and Bathurst. Both have populations of around 40,000 (although this figure includes the villages around Bathurst). These centres are 40 minutes apart by road.
The Central West region continues to be actively engaged in the arts, with local practitioners working across many art forms. Numerous towns from across the region have active arts communities and groups working to support, foster and present the arts.
- Orange is the main health service centre for the region and has extensive services.
- The region includes two campuses of Charles Sturt University (CSU) at Orange and Bathurst.
- In addition to the state schools throughout the region, there are many independent schools including boarding schools in Bathurst, Orange and Forbes.
- The Central West has a number of correctional centres – Lithgow, Bathurst and Wellington as well as some smaller services.
- Organisations such as Headspace, Centacare, Neighbourhood Centres and disability services are all active in the region.
Arts and Cultural Practice in the region
- All art forms are represented, with visual arts being very prevalent.
- Bathurst is strong in theatre and circus due to the influence of the Theatre Media course at the University.
- There are professional theatres at Bathurst and Orange, with the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre active in supporting and producing local work. Lithgow, Parkes and Cowra have theatre venues.
- Orange and Bathurst/Lithgow/Forbes each have a regional conservatorium.
- Bathurst, Orange and Cowra all have regional art galleries and the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery manages an artist residency program in Hill End.
- There are few commercial art galleries in the region – most notable are Jayes Gallery in Molong and River Bank Gallery in Canowindra, as well as the council-run Grenfell Art Gallery. Artist run galleries include Platypus Gallery in Forbes and T.Arts gallery in Bathurst. Aboriginal art is represented at the Kew-Y-Ahn Gallery in the historic village of Hartley, in space run by National Parks and Wildlife Services.
- Much of the cultural infrastructure is council owned and managed.
- Creative industries are quite strong. In addition to the standard art forms: filmmakers, magazines, TV and radio, advertising and public relations, electronic games and design are all represented. There is a film studio located in Cowra (Lachlan River Studios). Lithgow is doing work to actively support the town’s creative industries.
- The region has a number of important festivals – Elvis Festival (Parkes), Ironfest (Lithgow), Kalari Lachlan River Arts Festival (Forbes) and Inland Sea of Sound (Bathurst). Bathurst hosts the national young people’s circus skills festival Catapult every two years.
- Second tier organisations active in the arts include Forbes Art Group, Western Plains Regional Development, CORRIDOR project, Jenolan Caves, Taste Orange and Cowra Japanese Gardens.
- Several centres have active arts councils – Oberon, Lithgow, Bathurst, Hill End, Cowra and Lachlan (Condobolin).
- Aboriginal groups include Mingaan Aboriginal Corporation (Lithgow area) and Condobolin Wiradjuri Aboriginal Corporation. Land Councils operate in Bathurst, Orange, Condobolin, Lake Cargelligo, Wellington and Cowra, and there are Aboriginal working parties in Parkes and Peak Hill.
- Museums include the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum (Bathurst), Age of Fishes Museum (Canowindra), Ben Chifley’s House (Bathurst), Small Arms Museum (Lithgow) and numerous small museums with a consortium working towards a new museum in Orange.
- Arts and Health practice is strong in the region, particularly in Bathurst and Orange.
- Aboriginal arts practice is active throughout most of the region including dance, visual arts, weaving and filmmaking.
- A new museum in Orange
- Bicentenary celebrations commencing in 2015.
KEY ISSUES AND TRENDS
The Central West offers a range of venues for touring shows. Bathurst and Orange theatres present professional touring shows in music, dance and theatre. Other opportunities can be found at theatres in Cowra, Parkes and Lithgow, usually by working with the arts council or the Musical and Dramatic Society. Music venues include the conservatoriums, Taste Canowindra, wineries and hotels. Arts OutWest does not engage in touring programs because of the existing avenues available in the region.
Much of the region’s cultural infrastructure is council owned and managed. There are some privately owned venues which experience the commercial pressures of operating in an area without a critical mass of people.
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) and Aboriginal Activity
The region has a mixture of cultural diversity, but CaLD practice tends to be ad hoc, largely due to the lack of representation of any single ethnic group. Aboriginal arts practice is extensive, and Arts OutWest’s full-time Aboriginal Arts Development Officer position is assisting this growth. A new permanent gallery space for the region’s Aboriginal artwork opened in 2013 in a space with the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Hartley.
There are limited opportunities for young people to pursue arts careers within the region, although the presence of Charles Sturt University does offer quality opportunities in theatre and media. Apart from this, it is generally accepted that many young people will need to leave the area in order to train and to develop their careers. On the other hand, there are a significant number of people who come to the region at a later point in their lives, and it is vital that these people are given the support to operate successfully as creative practitioners living in a regional area.
Education and Training
CSU offers courses through the School of Communication and Creative Industries including theatre media. The recent TAFE cuts have meant that the offer of arts training has greatly reduced. Schools offer many opportunities in the arts, but many of the more remote parts of the region find it difficult to attract arts teachers.
Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as identified by key sector representatives are as follows:
- Proximity to Sydney.
- Infrastructure established in many centres.
- Many active groups operating in the arts.
- Strong tradition of the arts.
- Presence of Charles Sturt University.
- Strong heritage of the region.
- Some outstanding creative practitioners.
- Successful arts and health practice and projects.
- Insufficient population to create critical mass for commercial ventures, i.e. not enough audience.
- Under-performing cultural tourism sector in recent years.
- Difficulty in retaining young people in region.
- Need stronger identity of region.
- Lack of innovation in some arts practice.
- No NBN in region.
- Links with the University.
- Supportive bodies such as Regional Development Australia and Central NSW Councils (CENTROC).
- Developing Aboriginal arts industry.
- Creative practitioners and artists willing to engage.
- The region’s ongoing links with the UK growing from the 2013 UK cultural exchange program between the central west and Derbyshire.
- Loss of training through TAFE.
- Loss of commercial venues.
- Being ‘left behind’, due to lack of connection and broadband.
- Loss of population in some areas.
Aboriginal Population and Language Groups This area cuts across the RAB areas of Arts Outwest, South West Arts, Outback Arts, Orana Arts, Arts North West and Murray Arts. The Arts Outwest region is all Wiradjuri country.
- 9,000 Aboriginal people live in the region (6% of the general area population). Highest concentration of Aboriginal people live in The Lachlan Valley and Wellington Shires
- Wiradjuri Nation (largest in the region and possibly in NSW)
- Paakantji Nation (sometimes spelt ‘Barkindji’ or ‘Parkinji)
- Ngiyampaa Nation (sometimes spelt ‘Ngemba’)
Arts OutWest Aboriginal Arts Development
- An Aboriginal Arts Development Officer has been employed at AOW since 2010 through funding from the Australian government’s Office for the Arts’ Visual Arts Industry Support (IVAIS) and Indigenous Cultural Support (ICS) programs. This position and the Aboriginal arts development program across the Central West is supported by a steering committee which includes elders and staff from aboriginal organisations. The program builds on the considerable activity across Wellington, Cowra, Kelso, Condobolin and Bathurst in 2008 and addresses one of the four key focus areas in AOW’s 2009 strategic plan.
- Major highlights of the program include: the coordination of two regional events (the ‘Marramarra’ projects) which showcased Aboriginal visual arts, performance and culture from the region, the first held in Bathurst in 2011 and the second in Parkes in 2012; curating and organising a series of Aboriginal arts exhibitions in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Department of Environment and Heritage at the Kew-Y-Ahn Aboriginal Art Gallery which opened in 2013 at the Hartley Historic Site near Lithgow; incorporation of Aboriginal arts into AOW’s arts and health program; and an Aboriginal contemporary dance project in Condobolin and Cowra which has led to dancers selected for the NAISDA full-time training program.
- 2007 River Dreaming Festival, Bathurst
- 2011 Marramarra, Bathurst
- 2102 Marramarra Bulla, Parkes
Aboriginal Arts Organisations and Programs