How We Will Support Byron’s Thriving Creative Industries
Keeping An Important Element of Our Community Alive
“There are two distinct languages. There is the verbal, which separates people… and there is the visual that is understood by everybody.” – Yaacov Agam
We believe that art, in its many and varied forms, is critical to a strong and cohesive community. It gives individuals an all-important outlet for self-expression and storytelling, it creates opportunities for groups to come together and connect.This is particularly true here in Byron, where artists and creatives make a significant contribution to the local culture and economy.
We also understand that, for an artistic community to flourish, certain structures need to be in place. Artists must be given spaces to create and platforms to exhibit their work. They must be supported to sustain themselves and have opportunities to earn the money they need to keep creating.
To us, this is far more than a policy matter – it is something we have a deep personal connection with. Most of the Byron Independents team are actively involved in the arts and regularly engage with Byron’s creative community. As such, we have a strong practical understanding of the priorities of local artists, and the challenges they face.
Creating Collaborative Spaces
To Byron Independents team member, Jeannette Martin, creativity and community will always go hand-in-hand. She says the knitting on the poles in Mullumbimby is a prime example of artists finding a way to come together.
“Without support or facilitation, some of our local creatives have collaborated to create something beautiful. They have found a common purpose and vision, and shared that with the community in any inventive way. If this is happening without formal intervention, imagine what can be achieved with the right structures in place,” Jeannette says.
Throughout her 22 years in community development, she has witnessed first-hand the profound difference taking up art can make. In particular, she has seen how beneficial art can be to people’s mental health, something she says has never been needed more.
All this has led Jeannette to spearhead the establishment of the Mullumbimby Arts Hub, which is planned to open next year.
The Mullum Arts Hub aims to create a supportive environment, where curiosity replaces critique, people are encouraged to trust the artistic process, to take risks, and to try something new.
We will create a space where our diverse community, of all ages and abilities, can come together in the spirit of friendship, creativity and sharing.
Learning Lessons from International Arts Hubs
Sama Balson has two decades experience working in performing arts management, directing theatre, interdisciplinary arts, curating events and programmes for arts venues; she sees the potential for Byron to be considered among the nation’s leading creative destinations. “We have so much artistic talent to showcase in the local area” she says. Having spent significant time in some of the biggest global art hubs (Paris, New York & London), Sama believes there is a lot we can learn to properly support our artistic community. From optimising our creative spaces to holding festivals that celebrate our unique local arts scene, she says there is no shortage of opportunities.
For example, in France, where Sama studied performing arts and design, creativity is deeply respected and ingrained in daily life and culture. “This is largely thanks to the government’s understanding that art is project-driven and their commitment to helping artists sustain themselves financially between projects,” she says. “It is something that I would really love to see emulated here.”
Platforms and Communication are Priorities
With Byron Shire’s large number of local artists, Sama believes providing a platform is a priority. This will allow them to express their talents and help foster connection within the wider community. It also creates much-needed economic opportunities, both for individual artists and for the whole of the Shire.
“Getting new projects up and running with Council red tape has its challenges – this is something we need to change. By simplifying the process, we will empower local creatives and artistic collectives to drive ideas and events. This is key to supporting a sustainable creative industry and something I am deeply committed to achieving, if elected”.
Sama is also dedicated to working alongside small arts businesses to gain understanding of the support they require. She says this group was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and received little financial assistance from the government.
“We already have some amazing artists and arts businesses in Byron, and I’d love to help bring them together and really support them. Many of these organisations have shown enormous resilience and I think there is a lot of good insight to be shared. I would encourage those involved in creative organisations to get involved in local business events, like our meet and greet evenings”.
Making Art the Heart of Our Community
In addition to his many other achievements, Peter Westheimer has a long and storied history in the arts. In his youth, he was quite an accomplished violinist, playing with the Australian Youth Orchestra and leading the Victorian Junior Symphony Orchestra. Since then, he has branched out to become a musician, actor, composer, artist, and music video producer and performer.
Because of this background, he takes quite a broad view of the arts, which he sees as part of the creative industries. In this he includes everything from writers and painters to those pushing the boundaries of architecture, industrial design, and business. Using this definition, he believes the Byron Shire probably has the highest concentration outside of Sydney and Melbourne.
“I believe we need to make arts and cultural expression the fibre and heart of our community, where diverse views are respected. I would encourage more cultural grant applications and invite the community to think big as to what we want and who we want to attract, and what we, as a community, should support with energy and finances,” Peter says.
In this spirit, Peter is a big advocate for the Byron Shire Council’s Arts and Culture Policy 2020, which he says would be the backbone of ongoing support of the arts.
With three strong voices for the arts in the Byron Independents, the future is not only bright – but colourful – for the Byron Shire. It is a future where art is embedded in the fabric of the community, where people can join together in the act of creating, hold each other through the creative process, tell their stories, and marvel at the endless possibilities that come from the human imagination.
Join us Wednesday the 17th of November at 7:30pm to discuss how we will support arts and culture in our community, as well as listen to any ideas put forward by you, our community. More information can be found here.