July’s Canberra Community Champions is the Belconnen Arts Centre.
Belco Arts is a community driven arts organisation with one core purpose: to fuel a love of and engagement in the arts. It is a multi-purpose space that brings together diverse creatives in Canberra across a variety of arts practices and mediums. It’s a place to celebrate, experience creative journeys and share stories. The team at Belco Arts is currently working hard to engage with, connect and support the creatives throughout social isolation.
Artists and creatives have been hit particularly hard by COVID. Whether it is visual artists who cannot hold exhibitions, musicians who have had their gigs cancelled, lighting technicians and theatre ushers being stood down – there is no part of the arts sector that is unaffected. Last week, I joined Alicia Payne MP, David Smith MP and Labor’s Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke for an online forum with Canberra creatives and arts organisations.
Casey Community Outreach, by Eleanor Ng of Casey
The arts sector is doing it tough. And yet now more than ever, Australians are turning to the arts to find comfort and solidarity with our community. Australian stories are absolutely vital to promoting a sense of solidarity and togetherness. Whether you enjoy seeing Australian stories represented on screen or reading them on the page, resonate with the beauty and power of Australian visual art or appreciate listening to Australian music, the arts are fundamental to our culture and identity.
Belco Arts is currently running a campaign called Going the Distance that supports projects led by local artists through the COVID recovery period. This has already funded several projects, including Storytelling with Larry Brandy, where Larry shares his Wiradjuri Culture through performance, Lucky Jim Live, a fun live-streamed show for kids and families that engages everyone through real-time play song and dance, and Brunch with Bec where Bec Taylor brings the audience on a journey of piano through the decades.
They also ran Stories from Solitude earlier this month, an online series that explored how storytelling can continue to bring communities together in an online world. Iso Topics is an online exhibition of works created in conjunction with the University of Canberra that provides insightful reflections into different experiences of isolation, and is showing alongside Totems, which features works by Indigenous detainees from the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
Belco Arts runs Gungahlin Arts, which is working on a project of pop-up arts programs and events around Gungahlin and supporting local artists co create within their own community. In response to physical distancing, Gungahlin Arts has created Postcards from Gungahlin. This online exhibition features 142 works by Gungahlin locals sharing what their home means to them in a time when we are all spending more time in our local area than ever before. During lockdown, Gungahlin Arts has also commissioned five artists with a strong connection to Gungahlin to create new work through its Art in Place program, to be displayed in the local community in 2021.
Gungahlin Arts has also continued to run the Migrant Women’s Art Group online throughout isolation. This free group is a way for women who have migrated to Australia to come together, make new friends and share their creative skills with the wider community through exhibition opportunities in the local area. Finally, work is continuing on Gungahlin Arts flagship event NAIDOC in the North. This year’s celebration will feature online performances from some of Canberra’s most talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers along with socially distanced in person activities which celebrate the first nations culture of our region.
It’s wonderful that Belco Arts is continuing to share joy and passion with the community through these difficult times.
In my first term in federal parliament, I collaborated with the Belconnen Arts Centre to create a project called ‘Mapping the Northside’. We joined forces to make an enormous map where people could come in and locate their favourite places in Canberra’s North. They had all kinds of creative responses to places that are special to them – including drawings, photos, stories, poems and even performance pieces.
Me with Hannah Semler (left), former Director of the Belconnen Arts Centre and professional artist Maryann Mussared at the opening of 'Mapping the Northside', my collaboration with Belco Arts in 2011.
It was a reminder of the power of the arts to unite the community around our shared experience of the region.
You can read more about the Belconnen Arts Centre and their terrific work here: https://www.belcoarts.com.au/.