Saturday, March 12, 2011

Past and Present at the Wagga Wagga Art Society

Past and Present opened last night at the Wagga Wagga Art Society on Small St, Wagga Wagga.  The show featured a whole ton of WWAS members including myself and also doubled as the launch for the recently printed "A History of Art:  Wagga Wagga Art Society 1949-2009" by Nancy Rew.

The Wagga Wagga Art Society is the only thing in Wagga Wagga that closely resembles a grass-roots arts organisation.  Though there have been attempts in the past to create an artist run initiative (ARI) in the area, the rent is apparently too high and for some mysterious reason there seems to little interest from the broader community.  That is of course with the exception of much of the imported arts and music events that travel through and it seems that the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery is aware of this and has to devote a substantial proportion of its exhibition program to bringing in the culture from outside.

What's also interesting is the fragmentation of the visual arts in Wagga Wagga.  Fine Art students from the local University and Tafe campuses aren't very involved in the Art Society, nor do they seem to try and start up their own ARI despite the huge number of them and the mix of visual interests and talents among them.  The impression I get from the staff of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery is that they hve difficulty in getting the students in and active with the gallery.  To throw another ingredient in the mix I'll mention that there is another Society called the Lakeside Art Group who get together about a ten minute drive out from Wagga central in a suburb called Lake Albert.

This fragmentation might come down to age.  For the last few years (at least) the Wagga Wagga Art Society has been keen to involve younger people to share skills with them and to get fresh ideas and practices in the mix.  As a (relatively) young member I can feel the love for that reason, I am the only member that I know of that is under 40.

That brings you up to speed with the 2011 history of the art climate here.  I've yet to read Nancy Rew's book which I purchased at the exhibition last night which traces the history of the Art Society from 1949 and also parallels this history with the history of the regional art.  Despite the beautiful Wagga Wagga Art Gallery and the National Glass Art Gallery, the Wagga Wagga Art Society is definately the artistic epicentre of Wagga, hence it is a joy when I can just come on in and exhibit with them.  Plus they can draw a crowd.

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