SOUTH EAST ARTS REGIONAL SNAPSHOT OVERVIEW 2017
The South East covers an area of 62,200 square kilometres and a total population of approximately 87,381. The region has a strong history of original Aboriginal ownership and European settlement focused on fishing, farming and forestry. In comparison to other coastal regions in NSW, the South East has a small population spread over a large geographic area, with two-thirds of the region’s people living in the two coastal LGAs. National Parks and State Forests make up large areas of the region and there is a limited amount of rateable land.
The region as serviced by South East Arts comprises five LGAs:
- Bega Valley Shire Council – 33,475 pop. (major towns – Bega, Merimbula and Eden)
- Snowy Monaro Regional Council – 20,707 pop. (major towns – Bombala, Cooma, Jindabyne)
- Eurobodalla Shire Council – 35,741 pop. (major towns – Batemans Bay, Moruya, Narooma)
Main industries and employers include:
- Bega Cheese and associated dairy industry
- Local councils
- Tourism industry (includes coastal and snow ski tourism)
- Hospitality industry
- State and Federal government service centres
- Southern Phone – telecommunications
- Snowy Hydro Authority
- Traditional agriculture and fisheries
- Logging and associated timber production
Arts and Cultural Overview
The South East region has a high proportion of resident artists and high levels of participation in arts and cultural activities. Inspired by the beauty of the region, many professional visual artists, musicians and performing artists have made their homes here. Across the region there is an active network of community arts and cultural organisations (more concentrated on the coast) and a calendar of regionally-based music and cultural festivals. Music societies and arts councils support a limited touring program of professional musicians with a focus on classical music, and there are a number of amateur theatre groups with regular, well-attended performances. The commercial sector presents a range of mainly music-based live performances, supported by the summer and winter tourism markets.
All councils have long-term Community Strategic Plans, with associated four-year Operational Plans. These strategic plans include a range of objectives that articulate the cultural aspirations of the community, providing South East Arts with directions for service delivery to participating LGAs. The Councils have identified the potential of creative industries and cultural tourism as part of their economic and community development.
Currently, the local Council’s main cultural services expenditure is on the provision of library services. In recent years the libraries have extended their services to include a range of talks, presentations, performances, exhibitions and workshops. The Bega Valley Regional Gallery is the only council-supported regional gallery, employing a full-time director. Only one Council in the region (Eurobodalla) employs a coordinator of creative arts development officer.
KEY ISSUES AND TRENDS
The region boasts a number of small but nationally significant hubs of arts activity:
Bega-based youth dance theatre fLiNG Physical Theatre has a professional artistic directors and growing reputation nationally and internationally.
Bermagui’s Four Winds Festival now has to a year-round program of work, enabled by a new world-class facility with the Windsong Pavilion and outdoor Soundshell.
Cooma’s National Busking Championships has grown over recent years and in 2017 included five regional heats in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
One of the key issues for performing arts in the region continues to be the lack of purpose-built, professionally managed cultural centres or venues.
Community and professional performances take place in a diverse range of venues including pubs, clubs, community halls, churches, school halls and libraries. In 2016 Bega Valley Council opened a new Civic Centre building in Bega providing a venue for music concerts and theatre, but does not have the facilities or staff of a performing arts centre.
There are a small number of youth-focused scholarship programs supporting music and performing arts, as well as high levels of participation at the secondary school level.
Eurobodalla Council has plans for a cultural centre in Batemans Bay, which includes a performing arts space and in 2019 will open a new purpose build exhibition space, as an extension of the Moruya Library.
The visual arts are represented through various arts organisations, individual artists, commercial and cooperative galleries, and artist’s studio galleries. There are an increasing number of professional visual artists residing in the region, many of whom have national and international reputations. Initiatives such as the Far South Coast Living Artists Scholarship have aimed to provide financial support for professional artists. However, a lack of access to the arts markets of the main metropolitan areas and the impact of the recent global financial downturn is a major challenge for visual artists looking to develop and maintain a professional practice.
Local visual artists have the opportunity to exhibit in a number of small private commercial galleries and artist-run initiatives; however in recent years the number of available venues has decreased. There are visual arts competitions open to artists in the region, including:
- Lake Light Sculpture (Jindabyne)
- Sculpture Bermagui (Bermagui)
- Sculpture on Clyde (Batemans Bay)
- Basil Seller’s Art Prize (Moruya)
- Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award (Bega)
Visual arts workshops, seminars and master classes are a regular feature of the annual calendar of events; however the availability of tertiary (mainly TAFE) visual arts courses is no longer available in the region.
Recent research by South East Arts identified 28 festivals with a significant arts and cultural component. The region has a number of signature arts festivals which celebrate the visual and performing arts, featuring local and visiting artists. Events such as the annual Thredbo Blues Festival, Merimbula Jazz Festival, Granite Town (previously Moruya Jazz Festival) and Cobargo Folk Festival have a long history in the region with traditionally strong support from audiences.
More recently established festivals, such as the Candelo Village Festival (biennial) and Sculpture Bermagui (Bermagui) and National Busking Championships (Cooma) have built new audiences for contemporary music and sculpture respectively. Festivals strongly supported by local businesses are evident in the high country and include the Thredbo Jazz, Thredbo Blues and Peak Music (Perisher) Festivals. Most festivals rely heavily on volunteer workers to coordinate and manage these events, with insurance coverage, succession planning and financial sustainability key issues for many festivals.
Aboriginal Arts and Culture
The 2016 ABS Census data identified that there were 3,109 people within the region who identified as either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The Aboriginal population distribution throughout the region is dispersed, with larger pockets centred in Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shires. Previous South East Arts projects have identified a considerable number of practising visual artists; however few operate at a professional level.
There are eight Local Aboriginal Lands Councils in the region, but no regional coordination or cooperative initiatives between them. There are two Aboriginal cultural centres in the region – Aboriginal Cultural Centre Monaroo Bobberrer Gudu at Jigamy and Umbarra Cultural Centre at Wallaga Lake, however the latter is currently not open for general public access. South East Arts has an Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Action Plan (2016-18) to guide the organisation in development of initiatives in this area. These include regional partnerships with Jigamy and the Bundian Way initiative, support of individual artists and employment of a part-time Aboriginal Creative and Cultural Engagement Officer.
There is limited touring of visual and performing arts in the region mainly due to the lack of professionally managed venues. The various music societies and art societies have annual programs that include mainly classical music performers, through Musica Viva and Co-Opera. Contemporary music touring is mainly through the various commercial clubs and some arts organisations (e.g. Candelo Arts Society). Theatre touring is largely non-existent; however South East Arts has been developing partnerships with Critical Stages, Merrigong Theatre (Wollongong) and Canberra-based companies and artists.
Arts and Health
In response to the 2016 release of the NSW Government’s Health and The Arts Framework, South East Arts has developed Swell – a regional strategy to:
- Support the development of arts and health approaches and initiatives in health care settings across the region
- Facilitate connections and alliances between the arts and cultural community and health services
- Build the capacity of arts and health practitioners to make meaningful contributions to both artistic practice and health and wellbeing goals.
Although this is a recent initiative, initial networks and research indicates there are a range of exiting arts and health projects in the region, that South East Arts can help to develop and strengthen, as well as establishing new projects and programs.
In 2016 South East Arts established SEA Screen to assist in the development of the screen industry in the region. There are a small number of professional practitioners and businesses in the region, with short film and documentary production growing in Bega and Batemans Bay. There is benefit from promoting the region as a location for film and TV production.
Current issues affecting the arts and cultural sector
- High proportion of resident artists and high levels of participation in arts and cultural activities.
- Active network of community arts and cultural organisations and a calendar of 28 regionally-based music and cultural festivals.
- Developing music cultural hubs in Candelo (Candelo Arts Society) and Bermagui (Four Winds).
- Small number of professional arts organisations – fLiNG Physical Theatre, Bega Valley Regional Gallery and Four Winds.
- Commercial sector presents a range of mainly music-based live performances, supported by the summer and winter tourism markets.
- Limited touring of visual and performing arts in the region mainly due to the lack of professionally managed venues.
- Community and professional performances take place in a diverse range of venues including pubs, clubs, community halls, churches, school halls and libraries.
- Local visual artists have the opportunity to exhibit in a number of small private commercial galleries, artist run initiatives and local markets.
- Bega Valley Shire Council runs a regional gallery and employs the only professional curator in the region./li>
- Most festivals rely heavily on volunteer workers to coordinate and manage events, with insurance coverage, succession planning and financial sustainability key issues.
- Eight Local Aboriginal Lands Councils in the region, but no regional co-ordination or cooperative initiatives. Two Aboriginal cultural centres in the region at Eden and Wallaga Lake, however the latter is currently not open for general public access.
- Limited creative industries development and opportunities.
- An overall impediment to audience development is a small population spread over large geographical area and low socioeconomic area with limited rateable land for LGAs.
- Active participation in arts and cultural activities.
- High level of volunteer support.
- Professionally led youth dance with fLiNG Physical Theatre.
- Four Winds organisation with professional arts manager.
- All LGAs participating in Regional Arts Board and making financial contributions.
- Music performance and development strongly supported.
- Summer and winter cultural tourism opportunities for artists.
- Growing strategic approach to development by councils and organisations.
- Growing development of cultural tourism.
- Long running and well supported festivals in the region.
- Small population over large geographical area.
- Low socio-economic area with limited rateable land.
- Limited cultural infrastructure.
- Limited number of arts professionals.
- Poor communication and networking in the arts across the region.
- Lack of succession planning and strategic approach from arts organisations.
- Limited creative industries development.
- Lack of co-ordination and co-operation between Local Aboriginal Lands Councils.
- Lack of arts professionals across all art forms.
- Development of cultural tourism.
- Development of recently established festivals.
- Aboriginal arts and cultural engagement.
- Music industry development.
- Increasing professional development of artists and organisations.
- Bundian Way (Aboriginal pathway) development.
- Creative industries skills workshops.
- Development of new venues.
- Ongoing financial support from the participating LGAs.
- Impact of possible council amalgamations.
- Increasing competition within the region for limited arts funding.
- Limited audience with interest in arts and culture.
- Youth leaving the region for metropolitan.
- Aging population and low socio-economic profile.
Aboriginal Population and Language Groups
- Nearly 3,000 Aboriginal people live in the region (approximately 2.3% of the general area population)
- The region encompasses 5 Aboriginal Land Councils
South East Arts Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Action Plan, 2012-2015
- This plan builds on research on Indigenous cultural practice across all 5 of the LGAs represented by SEA and promotes engagement with Aboriginal communities across the region through the development of cultural generators, professional development opportunities and ways for local artists to gain greater access to cultural infrastructure.
- Price’s Cafe is the first of two pilot projects identified to begin the process of realising this Plan. It is a museum-style exhibition based on an idea by local Aboriginal artist Cheryl Davision and recreates Moruya’s social hub for Aboriginal people in the 1950s and 1960s. The project will be included in the Eurobodalla River of Art Festival 2013.
- In 2013 an Aboriginal Arts Officer was appointed and is based at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre near Eden. The position is funded through the Indigenous Culture Support program of the Australian Government’s Office for the Arts.
Aboriginal Arts Organisations
- Kari Yalla Aboriginal Arts Cooperative, Eden
- Eden-Moneroo Bubberer Gudu museum and performance space, commercial kitchen café Monaroo Bobberrer Gudu, Jigamy
- Umbarra Cultural Centre, Wallaga Lake