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Transforming a regional art centre

Staff writer

Less than a year ago, Arts Ceduna in Far West South Australia was struggling to exist. Now, it’s on the road to being the best in the region.
Transforming a regional art centre

Sherrie Jones ‘Creator in yindjibarndi Ngurra, rainbow snake (Bilguhawarli)’. Image: supplied.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists have long visited Ceduna in South Australia for the region’s unspoilt beaches and bushland; ripe conditions for a peaceful holiday and plentiful moments of solitude.

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Now, a booming art scene is stealing the spotlight. Over the last few months, the transformation of the previously struggling Tjutjuna (Ceduna) Arts and Culture Centre has been catching the attention of locals, visitors, neighbouring regions and the art world.

Established in 2001, past roadblocks that undermined the growth of the Art Centre in the region and state have been addressed, explained Art Centre Manager Melanie Sarantou, who joined the centre last year.

With a background in marketing and product development, Sarantou has worked across art, craft and design globally and was struck by the high quality of the art coming out of the centre.

‘The art from our area is of very high quality and the artists themselves are really worth their salt,’ she said.

It was time for the art in the region to shine. ‘After 15 years, the stakeholders realised the strengths of the artists and wanted to start a new chapter,’ she said.

‘Slowly but surely we implemented a new strategy and began to rebuild the art centre after quite an unstable time with the coming and going of coordinators.’

Now, the centre’s vision to be the best Aboriginal art centre in the Far West of South Australia is well on its way to being realised.

Arts Ceduna has recognised the talent of artists across the region and has engaged previous coordinator Pam Diment to rove the region to identify artworks and give then greater access to the centre.

Sarantou credits strong support structures, fresh marketing initiatives and community development for the booming interest in the centre and its talented artists.

‘We needed to draw on various marketing elements so the art could be situated in the best possible way. To do that, we upgraded the gallery space, did a rebrand, updated the online shop and reworked the website.’

Art Ceduna now sells artwork on behalf of over 130 artists in the Far West region of South Australia, including internationally recognised artists such as Peter Bertani and Beaver Lennon, South Australian recognised artists such as Josephine Lennon and Christine Tschuna, and young upcoming artists such Ashley Pompey and Sherrie Jones.

In just over ten months, the centre’s artists have won six art prizes, and two of Ceduna’s arts workers have secured development grants.

The centre is also one of the only in South Australia outside the renowned Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands) to receive Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program funding.

The centre continues to drive such successes with its artist-driven initiatives, explained Sarantou. 

A new web shop has also helped to increase the profile of the artists. While the final iteration of the website and online shop will be launched this March, the initiative is already having a positive impact on the centre’s sustainability. 

‘In the last six months we were able to double our income from sales and also increase our community activity in spite of the global economic downturn and declining sales of Indigenous Australian art statewide,’ said Sarantou.

While the bells and whistles of upgrades help to raise the centre’s profile, it is maintaining local connections while building a regional and national profile that really helps the centre take leaps towards its vision.

The centre is currently planning their first international exhibition with strong contacts overseas.

‘We have a lot of exciting activities coming up and people are taking note,’ concluded Sarantou. Arts Ceduna are working closely with the Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation to seek funding for a comprehensive feasibility study to replace the current art centre facilities which have slowly been declining over the past 40 years.

Learn more at tjutjunaarts.com.au

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