Sunday, 14 October 2007

Irrunytju - thinking out-loud - where has this place gone? the website remains!

Just up the road 65 ks toward the SA border,
lies Wingellina, the home to Irrunytju Artists. A wonderful group of people, funny, gifted, strong in culture; family to us at Blackstone.

Back in 2005 I can remember talking to the then Irrunytju Art Manager and bragging a little about how well we were doing at Blackstone. She stunned me by telling me that Irrunytju had traded nearly $500,000.00 y.t.d. at that time. I can not quite remember when we spoke but I think it was toward the end of the calendar year. Knowing that the artists group operated on a 75% to artists and 25% to art centre basis, I appreciated that meant in the order of $150,000.00 to the community. This money would assist to run the art centre, maintain the building and services such as power, phone, internet and so on. Not to mention the great expense of taking artists to exhibitions and meetings as well as bringing specialists in to do art workshops, particularly for the new and emerging artists. This also meant that the artists had a good income for family and that should flow on to benefit the community members in many ways.

Things have changed at Wingellina. There is no longer a community owned art centre. It is not quite clear what the artists recieve now. It is stated that payments are now on a basis of 60% to artists 40% to gallery owner. I am not a participant so I do not have any records to substantiate this, I can only assume it to be true. I do know that some payments are made in kind, in Toyota, not sure how one substantiates the value of any Toyota supplied to an artist. I do wonder what that means to the cash situation for families who need money to spend in the store for food, clothing ect.

I am also curious about the advertisements I have noticed lately, placed by Agathon Gallery, for charity auctions or sales for Irrunytju community. I note that since the take over of Irrunytju Artists, the community has not recieved and compensation for rent, power, phone, internet. If gossip serves me correctly I also understand that the community has seen fit to remove the services of power, phone and internet from the new manager/operator of the group. I gather the artists still paint in the same building. The funds that the artists group used to generate for the community and provision of facilities are clearly gone. It is very costly to provide services such as power to remote communities. One would expect that any business that is making money from a community would feel the obligation to assist in funding that community.

I am hoping the intent of Agathon Gallery is to use funds from their charity auctions to reimburse the community for the loss of funds experienced since its activities commenced at Wingellina. Assuming they have traded something in line with the previous manager of the "community owned and based" artists group, we are talking something in the order of $250,000.00 plus per year. Perhaps they will also consider the developement of opportunities for new and emerging artists who it seems are currently a little out of the picture.

We at Blackstone do not trade anything like the money talked of from Wingellina but I know that our artists are strong to support their art centre and that they are all fully aware that the 35% they pay to the centre from their painting funds, supports the developement of business and offers a future to their children with opportunity and training.