What is an Art Centre?
An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Art Centre is a community based safe place for the telling and passing on of stories, lore and culture through creative practice.
This purpose of Art Centres is achieved through supporting the creation and promotion of the work of their artists and designers.
Art Centres operate as meeting places in First Nations’ communities all over Australia and offer opportunities for training, education, career pathways and enterprise.
Banner | Joshua & Shadeene wear BOONKAJ collection by Waringarri Aboriginal Arts, Country to Couture, Head Stylist – Rhys Ripper, 2021, Photo by James Giles.
The role of Art Centres in community
Art Centres play a vital economic role in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This economic aspect is crucial not only to the Indigenous art and craft industry, but also to the health of the communities generally. Art Centre sales are often the only externally generated source of income.
The strengthening and positioning of Art Centres ensures that Australia’s Indigenous art sector continues to flourish and excel. The economic independence of communities will help ensure that people can continue to live on their homelands, resulting in the preservation of traditional practices, ceremonies, language, art and spirituality. Art Centres often provide many social benefits which are not directly related to the arts. These services include assistance with health and medical requirements, aged care services, family business, education, legal, transport and financial management issues.
Arts Centres also provide a safe and supportive environment for artists and their families. Providing services such as these contributes to the social and physical health of community members.
Art Centres are:
- Places of creativity: that foster the creation of contemporary fine art.
- Cultural keeping places: Art Centres dutifully put aside works of old and deceased artists for future reference by family and other community members.
- Repositories of cultural knowledge: Art Centres are digitally recording images and documentation for community access now and future generations.
- Places for cultural rejuvenation: Art Centres are places where communities can renew cultural values and traditional lore.
- Places that empower people: They are places where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is valued in both worlds. Connection to country is maintained and strengthened. It is a place where communities can share their successes and engage with the wider community.
- Employment and training facilities: Art Centres are a key provider of training and employment in Indigenous Communities. They are organisations that are Indigenous owned and operated, and generate income from outside of their communities. This means that they are not recirculating welfare payments.
- Film Makers: Many short documentary films are produced under the auspice of Art Centres which serve to inform and educate the wider community about Indigenous culture.
- Technology hubs in communities: Art Centres are often at the cutting edge of new technologies introduced through graphic design and multi-media.
- Contributors to GDP: The 2007 Senate Inquiry, “Indigenous Arts – Securing the Future” identified that: ‘More recent estimates place the value of the Indigenous visual arts sector at $400- $500 million’.
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