Artist Profile: Chloe Flockart
Growing up in the Wheatbelt, artist Chloe Flockart didn’t see the arts as a viable career option. There were not a lot of people making a living in the space around her, and arts jobs were few and far between. So, she decided to step up to the challenge and carve herself out the career she always wanted.
Working as a multi-disciplinary community-based artist, Chloe describes herself as somewhat of a Swiss-Army knife: Puppetry specialist, director, producer, mentor, consultant, coordinator, grant writer, farm hand and even a volunteer with the local fire and rescue. Everywhere you look, there’s a good chance you’ll find Chloe working behind-the-scenes, making sure the wheels stay turning.
Chloe at work. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Chloe’s love of community-based work stems from her experiences at school back in the 1990s. At the time, there had been a huge push for arts activities in regional schools and she was lucky enough to experience the likes of Buzz Dance Theatre, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Barking Gecko or Phillip Duncan’s dance and life painting workshops firsthand through school incursions. As a child, it left an impression.
Most people didn’t consider the set designer, the tour producer, or the workshop assistant. But thanks to the incursions, Chloe was not only able to see them at work but ask questions about the how’s and why’s of their jobs. In her head, she built the entire structure for an arts company – and she wanted to be part of it.
A giant polar bear puppet Chloe made for community engagement. Photo courtesy of the artist.
When Chloe got to high school, she found art was only an elective she could enjoy for one term. And by upper school it was not even on the roster. Determined not to give up, she pursued art as a Distance Education subject – which meant learning from a VHS tape, in a classroom and with a schedule that she had organised herself.
When choosing the subjects, she was warned would determine the direction of her career, Chloe explained to her career-councilor exactly what she envisioned.
Chloe was asked to take a career aptitude test to find out what she was best suited for and help her pick the right subjects. The result: Mortician Beautician. But, when her school offered to set her up in a work placement with the local funeral director, she refused and instead enrolled in every single TEE subject she could to avoid it.
Chloe puppeteering. Photo courtesy of the artist.
When Chloe finished school, she didn’t quite know how to create herself the job she wanted. There wasn’t anyone in her immediate area carving out a pathway. So, she set out to figure it out on her own.
Emailing companies all around the world, begging for opportunities, Chloe was ecstatic when she landed an internship at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre. There, she learned the structure of an arts company – the creatives, the educators, the tour team, the general manager, and the finance.
Through a myriad of opportunities with Spare Parts, Perth International Arts festival, and the Blue Room, Chloe determined her passion was in workshops and community outreach. She was immensely aware that her presence in any of the rooms she was working in was because someone took the time to make sure she got to experience the arts as a kid, and she wanted that experience to be available to anyone.
Chloe’s Mural in WA Museum made with over 200 participating kids. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Then in 2015, a work mishap managed to put Chloe on the right path to being exactly that person. While working on a Perth Fringe production for a UK based company, she was left in the lurch when the organiser disappeared overseas without paying the cast for the season. She decided the best course of action was to go to the UK and try to find him, and politely ask him to pay.
Although she never found the guy, her bold move paid off. She got to meet with UK community arts power house Emergency Exit Arts, and even puppeteer for a few of their street parades. She got to watch how the organisation created lantern and float parades and pop-up street parties to create opportunities for people to interact with their broader community.
While there, she was told about the Curious School of Puppetry and emailed them asking if, while she was in London, she could pop in and look at what they had on offer. She applied for a grant and enrolled the following the year.
Chloe making puppets in a workshop in the UK. Photo courtesy of the artist.
While on the puppetry course she met Will Steele, a UK artist who had similar ambitions to her own. They had both come to the course not to become puppeteers, but because puppetry was their passion and they wanted to integrate it into their communities. Chloe says after class, the two of them would inevitably end up in the corner of a room having a deep discussion about community arts practice, mentoring, and how they would teach classes like the ones they had experienced in the future.
“Will is an incredibly passionate human. At that time, he was helping manage an artist collective, a company that did youth mental health interventions through puppetry and was doing improv. He had the same Swiss Army knife energy as me, a lot of drive, and was an incredible collaborator.”
By the end of the course though, Chloe had to return to Australia. But the two of them decided to devise a show together. Applying for an Exceptional Talent Young Leader visa, Chloe headed back to the UK with a goal to do six months there, and six months back in Australia.
They gave themselves the challenge of creating a show that would be inclusive of groups in their communities who weren’t turning out to theatre— the Migrant refugee community, the Hard of Hearing community, and young men. During their creative development they consulted with different groups to help create a show that would make them feel welcome in the theatre. The result was Dragon. A show with zero spoken language that could be enjoyed audiences from a range of backgrounds.
Although Dragon is now touring the UK, Chloe is back home in Merredin contributing remotely. What was supposed to be a quick trip back to Australia to perform on a puppetry tour resulted in the borders being snap closed behind her, just as she arrived.
Dragon. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Back in Merredin, Chloe decided it was time to start putting what she had learned in the UK into practice in Australia. During a grant seminar held by Regional Arts WA the discussion had turned to structural funding and COVID funding.
Every setback is just another opportunity for Chloe and being locked down in Merredin was no exception, as she used her spare time to help found Meridian Regional Arts Inc.
Chloe’s goal for Meridian is simple: get cash into town and run as many arts-based interventions as possible. Now in year two, the not-for-profit has started with very small engagements with great success. Mural painting days, projection art projects, pottery, textile printing, welding sculptural projects— everyone is invited to participate, with workshops selling out quickly.
Chloe working with a student. Photo courtesy of the artist.
As a recipient of a 2021 Regional Arts Fellowship, Chloe is now working with Meridian on a projection mapping project for her community to increase community engagement and inclusion.
While chatting with the Shire DCEO about projects they thought their community might enjoy, they landed on Perth Festival’s Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak. Then, they discussed Parrtjima: The Festival of Lights and Light Up the Night in Adelaide.
Chloe knew large-scale infrastructure wasn’t going to work for Merredin. They couldn’t do what had been done by getting diesel power generators, light stands, and security. They couldn’t rope off half the street for the project. That would be too much interruption. So, instead, they created a cost-effective tricycle set up that could be toured around town.
Photo courtesy of the artist.
The next step was to get the community to buy into the project. Chloe approached the Fine Arts Society and asked if she could animate some of their paintings. Then, she approached the Repertory club and then the local Camera club to see if they would be involved. Then she sourced two young composers she knew were keen to step into a community project.
From community workshops, where everyone present was let loose to design what they wanted to see, four segments were planned for a Painting with Light Night Walk. Later in the year, people will be able to purchase a ticket to a pair of headphones and a cup of hot chocolate and be taken on a tricycle tour of the town lit up with artworks created by the community.
“Projection art transforms spaces and creates a reflective and meditative experience for your audience. When you wrap a building in light, space, and stories it creates something new and amazing that people talk about days and weeks later. There’s also a no-waste aspect to it, you leave nothing behind. As an art-form, it’s only temporary, nothing to be thrown in the bin. Given the way our climate is changing that’s become an important consideration in the work I make.”
Ultimately, Chloe wants to create a space for people to be themselves and opportunities for people to better understand the positive impacts of engaging with our communities, particularity through art.
“My whole career has been built on the generosity of the Arts community saying ‘’Yes’ when I was in a bad spot. I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to find a community like that, wherever they are in the world.”