Sunday, 14 October 2007

Yet another busy fortnight

The last week in September saw the managers from Western Desert Mob affiliate art centres at Yulara for a day and a half of intense meetings. We are working on a publication, New art from Ngaanyatjarra Lands, needed to talk about our next joint exhibition. The Perth Show that launched the Western Desert Mob was a great success and we are now looking to Melbourne for our next show.

We needed to discuss a Patron for the WDM and some ambassadors to carry our banner. We are feeling very positive and each of the centres, in their own way, is doing well. We were very pleased to have artists from Waburton Art Project join us at our meeting.

I needed to raise the issue of Mantamaru Artists, I am hoping that they will be strong participants with Papulankutja Artists and that we can include them in the MOB, in particular for the exhibition next year.

It was a jam packed time at Yulara and we needed to get a lot through the agenda. The first week in October we would be meeting with the regions artists at Kulka for our governance workshops and we needed to be clear about matters to discuss with our artists and to get instructions on proceeding with the book amongst other things.

I had a little car trouble and also had to pick up the flooring for the Tjilpi Painting Room from a freight office at Yulara. Still, car fixed and freight on board I headed back to Blackstone via Curtain Springs. I wanted to go down the Mulga Park Road to check up on some of the Blackstone Mob who were visiting Amata and I wanted to say hello to a few old friends that I had not, had the chance to talk to at Blackstone during the Donegan funeral.

An Uneventful trip home, a few days to catch up on some work and then back on the road to Kulka. I was most grateful that my artists were in tune for the governance training and ready to head out. I was a little concerned that I would have to round them up :-)! I also needed to make sure that Freda Lane was on board as she is an executive member for Maruku (the punu man) and they had indicated that they would like the opportunity of having so many members together to hold a special meeting.

Kulka was buzzing, artists from Amata, Nyapari, Warkurna, Mututjulu, Blackstone and Jameson attending. Peter Shepherd our governance trainer and Kathy Tozer our interpreter. These session were just great and the artists are so impressive with their participation and direction.

I was particularly pleased that on day three we moved into the mysterious realm of "the market" .... who buys the work and how do we find them? How do we match the right person to the right work? This can be quite a mystery to the artists who also have a problem understanding why some work is valuable and some is not. Their own value lies in the tjukurpa, the strength and value as they see it is the story, the law and the link to custodianship of these vital and important stories of culture. The artists have a great deal of trouble understanding the vagaries of what makes a painting desirable to the market. Quite often their is considerable offence by an artist who is custodian of important law and who is prepared to share it with you in their painting.

The Maruku (punu man) meeting was solid going and put a bit of a dampener on things. It seems that they have been served with a "case to answer" thingy from the Ab Corp Mob. Most of the items to answer seem pretty pithy and I for one am wondering what it is all about. certainly the timing seems linked to the intervention in the northern territory. No doubt there a problems of one sort or another with most business, little things that are not perfect. The art centres all endeavour to do their best and comply with regulations. Sometimes this is not easy. This kind of nit-picking does not help and was very frightening for the executive committee. Maruku service a vast area and we are all very reliant on their services. For us a great organization to deal with.

As Jameson has shown a level in commitment and come to our training session at Kulka I have arranged to go over next week with Jodie and we will spend the day doing some painting workshops. I will leave canvas and paint with those that indicated their preparedness to work with Papulankutja Artists and we will see how we go. I will try to get an agreement from them of collecting a group or body of work before I send any out, that we can check the work out and look at a likely market place for them. At the moment I have no idea. It is exciting to find this group of people so enthusiastic. I have asked the computer man to sort my software so that I can keep these new guys with their own identity. Their certificates will go out as Mantamaru Artists.

I am still in breach, have got a lot done, I think, to fix it up, so should be sorted by the end of the week. I do have a whole week at home in the community, that heavens for that!

I have sent a little selection of paper works down to Melbourne to get some advice about packaging for product that is above the level of the miniatures that are most successfull. The paper artists are developeing beautifully and some of their work is moving up the quality scale.

I have been out of the community for most of the last two weeks, I need now to catch up on correspondence, in particular, the following:-

The Association of Central Australian Aboriginal Art & Craft Centres

Peak Organisation Lobbying Project

Project Brief

The Commonwealth Intervention in NT communities presents a number of significant challenges, new opportunities and threats to Indigenous Art Centres.

Desart, ANKAAA and Ku Arts have begun a process of coordinated action to identify how Art Centres might be affected and to initiate discussion and action to inform and influence Government and public opinion.

There is also an important opportunity to influence party policy in the lead up to the federal election.

As peak organisations in the Aboriginal art industry Desart, ANKAAA and Ku Arts have an important mandate to advocate for Art Centres in a national context.

Desart hosted a national forum on 24 August that laid the ground for this project. The forum established the following priority tasks:
• Develop an industry position concerning the Intervention
• Develop policy concerning a revised program to replace CDEP following its demise from September 2007
• Coordinate a media campaign promoting the value of Art Centres and policies designed to support them
• Establish a working group to promote discussion, develop policy and coordinate action.
A working group was established including ANKAAA staff, Desart staff, Flick Wright (Ku Arts), Dianna Isgar (Papulankutja Artists), Alan Murn (Julalikari Arts), Liz Tregenza (Nyinkka Nyunyu Culture Centre), Judy Lovell and Nicole Schimionek (Keringke), Andrew West and Abbie Cerchi (Independent Art Centre mentors). It is understood that this is an open group and may accept other members. The working group will require endorsement by Executive committee’s.

The Project
A project called the Peak Organisation Lobbying Project (POLP) will be formally established. It will be a joint project undertaken by Desart, ANKAAA and Ku Arts and resourced jointly by the three organisations.

There are two primary objectives in this project:
1. Develop new positions and policies in consultation with stakeholders
Policies will need to address changes to CDEP, the Commonwealth Intervention and the Recommendations of the recent Senate Inquiry.
2. Lobby key individuals in government and enlist the support of influential champions to ensure that lobbying is effective

Desart, ANKAAA and Ku Arts will seek endorsement of the project by their individual Executive Committee and distribute information about the project to their memberships.

The project will engage a consultant to deliver identified consultant tasks as outline in the Consultant/ Lobbyist Terms of Reference.

Project administration
Desart will provide project administration on behalf of the three peak organisations which are the primary stakeholders in the project.

Decisions about the conduct of the project will be made through joint consultation with the peak organisations and in consultation with the working group (below)

As the project administrator Desart will receive and administer funds and manage the contract of the consultant. (see Consultant Terms of Reference)

The working group
The working group established on 24 August is an informal group of Art Centre representatives. It was established to share ideas and identify key tasks as outlined in background information. (above)

It is important to establish that membership of the working group is confined to members of Art Centres, relevant peak organisation staff and others who might be nominated by Art Centres where individuals have a clear mandate for operations in Art Centres.

The working group will guide the conduct of the project by the consultant who will be required to undertake both formal and informal consultation with the working group.

Delivery and protocols
The consultant will develop policy and coordinate lobbying activity on behalf of the peak organisations and their memberships. It is intended that the consultant will be the primary contact for receiving and disseminating information in this project.

It is not intended that the consultant will over ride the promotion and advocacy roles of the individual peak organisations or individual Art Centres where they feel it is important to act independently.

Any project material created by the consultant under the letterhead of the peak organisations will require the approval of peak organisations before distribution.

Considering the urgency of this work it is vital that the consultant begin work as soon as possible with completion in the week before the federal election likely in November.

Desart will produce a written report and a financial report on the project for the benefit of stakeholders and for inclusion in organisation annual reports.

There is a great deal going on .......

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.