Gallery’s FRESHbark program
Friday, 22nd February, 2019
By Callum Marshall
Three young Indigenous artists from the Far West have just finished a year-long program run by the Regional Art Gallery and Maari Ma that’s helped develop their artistic skills and seen them engage in workshops with experienced artists.
Titled ‘FRESHbark’, the mentorship program has also provided the young artists plenty of networking opportunities, lectures and trips to galleries and museums in Sydney which has provided them valuable artistic insights.
Blake Griffiths, who’s been running the program for the gallery, said FRESHbark was about continuing to advance these young artists’ artistic work and showcasing it to a wider audience.
“So the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, in partnership with Maari Ma, started the FRESHbark program as an opportunity to give space to young Indigenous artists to continue making work,” he said.
“But it also gives them a range of professional development experiences in other aspects of the museum world like curatorial, conservation, and other stuff like that.
“There’s also a lot of networking (opportunities) and general mentorship throughout the year.
“So throughout the year we had one workshop a month, (and we focused on) a range of different things.
“We just had our last hurrah in Sydney which was a small research trip to go and see national and state collections and see what they have in their archives.
“But also to have a moment together to write our artist bios and to do some workshopping about the work we’ve been making over the last year.”
Blake said the young artists got to learn from other artists in the region in workshops that further developed their skills.
“So we did workshops with James Tylor who’s currently showing at the gallery, and we were really lucky to do a workshop with Tawa Teiwi Ngaro Rikihana who we call Terry,” he said.
“We also met Wendy Murray, one of Australia’s most renowned print-makers, and did a print-making workshop with her while we were in Sydney.
“We got to see Rebecca Fisher in the Australian Museum Archive, meet some artists and art organisers from Arnhem Land who were speaking at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, plus much more.
“So we got to meet some very high-career contemporary artists.”
A book and exhibition covering the young Indigenous artists’ work will also be coming out soon, he said.
“We’re getting a book published about everybody’s work which will be released in line with an exhibition (of the works) that opens here on the 10th of May,” said Blake.
“I wrote a grant (application) to Australia Council for the Arts last year and we were fortunate to receive the funding to continue the program, but we’re hoping to attract some interest through the exhibition so we can make sure it continues.”
“I also think it’s important to give the gallery platform over to young people every now and then because we have a dominant narrative of established artists.
“It also attracts a lot of local interest which assists these guys financially and socially to keep doing what they do.
“With the program we also wanted to make sure that, working with the Indigenous community, if it’s so big that a whole family wants to come along then that’s more than fine, and we’re actually proud and happy to have them.”
FRESHbark participant Jade Cicak said the experience had been a really exciting one.
“It was really fun to do the program and without the Regional Art Gallery we wouldn’t really have had the opportunity to do anything like this,” she said.
“I enjoyed just about everything (about it) because I like seeing new things, to travel away from home and see things in a different way.”
Alongside the program, Jade said the artistic study she was doing through her TAFE work had greatly developed her skill set.
“So I use cardboards and acrylic on canvas and I’ll still be doing that but just trying new things with it, so something different for everyone,” she said.
“I also do TAFE in Sydney and each block is something different.
“So I do sculpture, photography, lino-printing, so I’ll probably put in some of that stuff (into the exhibition) as well.”
She also encouraged locals to come along to the exhibition in May and see all their work.
“We’re very young and it’s really good when we get people to come along and see what we’re doing,” she said.
“When people tell us that we’re doing a good job, it just makes us want to keep working at it and it makes us feel good about ourselves.”