A thriving Arts and Cultural program helped the Alexandrina Council region to find its feet again after the ravages of drought.
Photograph by Richard Hodges, image courtesy of Alexandrina Council.
The Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia has been a hub for painters since colonial settlement. However recent years have seen many artists move into the region, and as Leah Grace, Arts and Cultural Development Officer at Alexandrina Council explained, ‘it’s now a very rich melting pot of art forms, with lots of artists living here.’
This is in no small part a result of a Regional Centre of Culture grant awarded to Goolwa, in the Alexandrina region, in 2012 –‘an intensive injection of arts and cultural activities the like of which the region had not seen before,’ reflected Grace.
The region is making the most of these improved facilities. The South Coast Regional Arts Centre and Signal Point Gallery host high quality visual arts programming focused on the works of local practitioners and nationally touring exhibitions. Public programs take place alongside exhibitions, making regular visitors of locals and metropolitan visitors who may have never visited a gallery before.
There is something for performing arts lovers too, with a depression-era hall being transformed into a 200-seat contemporary performing arts space, giving locals access to high-quality national productions.
Access for younger audiences is a priority for Council across all its venues. A school holiday highlight for local kids is the Sponge Kids Arts Hub which takes place at a gallery, just a stone’s throw from youth-focused productions at Centenary Hall. All this in a community located an hour and a half from the nearest metropolitan centre.
These boosts to local cultural infrastructure couldn’t have been timelier. The region, on the tail of the Murray River, had keenly felt the impact of drought. ‘One of the great benefits of the arts and cultural package was the opportunity for local people to give expression to how they felt, [and] participate in activities that were good for well-being. The community talks about a boost in pride about where they live…It’s a beautiful transformation.’
Local artists benefited from opportunities for professional development which ‘are usually much harder to access when you are living and working in a regional area.’
With the grant at an end, Council has stepped up so the benefits can continue. ‘As responsibilities devolve from a federal level, local government has a vital role to play in the arts and culture of the region. We’ve been fortunate over the last three years [to benefit from] federal programs…That stimulus and activity…creates an appetite and an expectation. There’s an onus on local government to have their ear to their community to listen…and respond.’
Evidently cultural activity brings benefits beyond its original remit. Grace observed, ‘I know of people who buy real estate and move here because of the cultural activity. I would say, go for an arts-led recovery!’
For more information visit Alexandrina Council.