A city’s cultural ecology is a complex beast made up of layers of interwoven factors that influence and feed each other. These layers respond and support different phases of the most crucial factor in the creative ecology “the artist’s” life, work and career.
Generally to start with, artists do a Degree and emerge from their institution either feeling fired up and ready to kick some hot art arse or stripped of all their creative esteem and limp off to a career in banking. In a city like Brisbane in the past, if you wanted to do the arse kicking instead of the coin counting; this “emerging artist” phase had equaled a ticket to Melbourne or Sydney.
It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity and Brisbane was and is still to a point, heavy in institutions and very much lacking in pathways to actually work within those frameworks. It’s a great place for students and perfect for the many Brisbane artists ex–pats who have returned North because they had kids and needed to secure an arts administration job and a yard.
What’s missing in Brisbane is that middle phase, when artist are young, yet skilled and daring and want to experiment with their work and take risks because they can pull all nighters, live in share accommodation and have the energy to try and make change including running ARI’s Artist Run Initiatives. This is the guts of the ecology and when ripped out what’s left is the bookends of students and establishment. Boring!
That’s why the opening of Outer Space ARI is exciting and the energy at the recent fundraising auction was palpable! This “Creative Hub” located in the West End area is a space Brisbane City Council sought expressions of interest (EOI) for a head tenant to manage and operate last year and the team of Caity Reynolds and Llewellyn Millhouse successfully tended for it.
POPSART; Interviews Amy Clare, Richard Bell and Leonard Brown
Amy Clare, curator and board member, told me the vision for Outer Space was “Supporting contemporary, emerging and established artists to have exhibitions here, there are 6 studios for artists to have residencies and this place (the large cement cavity) is going to be two beautiful galleries.”
Arts superstar Richard Bell also attended the auction and who never holds back told me “ARI are really important, I made my way into the art world through artist run spaces, we started our own so we could put some lines on our CV nobody else would touch us with a forty foot pole.”
Local Ipswich artist “the” Leonard Brown added, “I remember the days when John Nixon would have a show every ten days to chalk up his CV and the only visitors to the show were Ray Hughes and Bob McPherson and he really chalked up that CV!”
Bell quipped with a laugh “That’s how you do it, you name drop and you have a show every ten days!”
POPSART: Interview Ryan Renshaw
Gallerist Ryan Renshaw also at the auction said “ARI’s are the grass roots of the art industry they’re the place the art community is kind of generated as you can see here tonight, if you go to a commercial gallery you will see a dozen collector perhaps. This is a place where artists connect with each other and if you don’t have it then you don’t have the rest of the eco system of the art industry.”
He went on to say what he thought the problem with Brisbane was and why artist leave is because there hasn’t been the level of funding for the arts the southern states have, citing galleries such as Firstdraft in Sydney and Gertrude St in Melbourne that have had a long history of funding.
On display was the cream of Contemporary Brisbane art with Robert Andrew; Jordan Azcune; James Barth; Karen Black; Sam Cranstoun; Mitch Donaldson; Julie Fragar; Bridie Gillman; Charlie Hillhouse; Dana Lawrie; Carol McGregor; Kate McKay; Sebastian Moody; Kiah Reading; Monica Rohan; Cosima Scales; Nicola Scott; and Tyza Stewart.