Making connections in Geraldton

Making connections in Geraldton

Regional Arts WA

Dr Pilar Kasat recently travelled to Geraldton to attend the Community Cabinet Town Hall Meeting. After a fascinating few days of conversation and connection, we asked her to write about the experience. Here is what she had to say.

Geraldton is a town of just over 40,000 people, with a bustling arts scene and a keen entrepreneurial spirit. I was delighted to spend a warm February weekend immersing myself in some of the richness the coastal town has to offer.

I arrived on Yamatji Country early on the Friday (3 February) and spent my morning at the Museum of Geraldton, learning all about the maritime history of the town. I also caught up with Rebecca Millar in her new role as Manager Regional Strategic Projects at the WA Museum. Watch this space, as we are beginning to dream up some ideas together.

Later that day, I visited Julian Canny from Euphorium Creative, an exciting and innovative organisation that is creating community activity through the arts. Julian and I had a fascinating chat about Geraldton’s cultural activities, and art for social change. We also compared notes about the changemakers that inspire our respective practices.

Friday night was a hub of activity! I spent the first part of the evening running between a vacant block in the main street where Euphorium was activating the community with music and food, to the launch of a new partnership between Regional Sounds and Bendigo Bank. Regional Sounds is a new not-for-profit organisation that is creating opportunities for local musicians, connecting communities through music, and supporting cultural diversity in the regions. It was so great to see local business provide support to such a worthy cause.

Image: Regional Arts WA CEO Dr Pilar Kasat with Euphorium Creative CEO and Co-Founder Julian Canny at the Blue Heelers Food Truck Square.

Later, I went to the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery where I was treated to the opening of two fantastic exhibitions. The first, titled The Visitors, was a solo exhibition by Alice Springs based artist, Franca Barraclough. It was a poignant exploration of living in the desert and making sense of where and how we live. A photographic exhibition of tattoos, Ink In The Lines, was also very moving. Ink In The Lines uncovered the stories of service men and women and the markings they make on their bodies to represent some of the pain they are left with after serving in the military.

On Saturday morning, I caught up with a group of artists and creatives for two hours of coffee and conversation. It was an excellent opportunity to hear what matters to people in the Mid West. Issues such as mental health, core funding for arts organisations, and opportunities for young people really matter! Some also spoke about how they’re making their artwork with sheer determination and entrepreneurial skills – and the necessity of communication and collaborations for inspiration.

Image: Regional Arts WA CEO Dr Pilar Kasat catches up with Mid West creatives. 

Sunday was the big day of the Community Town Hall Meeting! The Town Hall meeting was packed with local community members, interested to hear from and ask questions from the Premier and Cabinet Ministers.

In a very respectful, but somewhat relaxed atmosphere, people had the chance to ask about pressing issues in their community. Important questions about education and health were forthcoming but there were also several questions posed the arts. Michelle McComb, Chairperson of Regional Sounds asked the Hon David Templeman the very important question about core funds for regional organisations to maintain their viability. Julian Canny, CEO of Euphorium asked the Premier about the creative industries, regional viability and his long term vision for Geraldton.

As part of the event, Regional Arts WA delivered a Mid West Arts Showcase in partnership with Euphorium Creative, which was a fantastic opportunity to highlight the sheer talent that exists in the region. People entering the venue were treated to the lush, soulful sounds of Alexia Parenzee accompanied by James Softly on keyboard. Alexia is a star on the rise, having received substantial international airplay, and supports for Babe Rainbow, Kim Churchill, Grace Barbé and Stella Donnelly.

Image: Alexia Parenzee performs at the Mid West Arts Showcase. Photo courtesy of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Musical duo, The Melodics (Zain Laudehr and Bryn Ellis) played after the formalities. A gifted vocalist of Bardi and Kija heritage, Zain has been performing in Geraldton since he was a child. His soulful sound, partnered with Bryn on guitar, exemplifies the rich community of musicians who live and work in Geraldton.

In addition to the incredible music, catching up with Elder Rhodda Cameron Capewell was a highlight. Rhodda welcomed the Premier and Cabinet to Yamatji Country.

I had the chance to engage with several Ministers and relay the important role that arts and culture play in their communities. The new Minister for Regional Development the Hon Don Punch expressed his support for the creative industries and the role they have in regional communities and is keen to learn more about the work the sector does.

The Premier was very happy to have a photo taken with him and was interested to hear that the arts plays a significant role in making communities more livable.

Image: WA Premier Mark McGowan with Regional Arts WA CEO Dr Pilar Kasat.

Relationship building is essential to Regional Arts WA’s advocacy work. We look forward to continuing our work on the Arts Showcases in partnership with the Department of Premier and Cabinet and regional community organisations.

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