On Wednesday, March 17 Adelaide arts collective T’Arts will celebrate their 10th birthday, looking back on all the successes of the past decade and contemplating what the future will hold.
An amazing feat for a relatively small and local organisation, members David Innocente and Kathryn Hill reflect on the tough times as well as the bright days ahead for T’Arts.
“We have survived through some hard times, things like the Global Financial Crisis,” Innocente says, “but we’re still here 10 years on. I think it’s a real achievement for a community organisation to run for a decade in general. We’ve seen the ups and downs and the fact that we’re still here and we’ve kept going shows the strength of the collective. It’s a stable organisation that’s in it for the long-run and despite things like the GFC, we’re actually doing even better now than ever. We have actually been growing over the last couple of years, so we’re continuing to progress.”
According to Hill, the key element of the collective’s strength and success is that the items T’Arts produce and sell are particularly unique and one-off, lovingly crafted with a personal touch. Clients are always keen to hear the story behind each of their purchases too, often coming from interstate and, perhaps more importantly, returning on their next visit.
“Our client base is usually the people who really want to buy things which are made by other people, as opposed to big chain stores, for example,” Hill explains. “On top of that, the fact that the items are made locally appeals to local people. People love buying directly from the artist, they like it when they are able to ask questions about the item, they seem to enjoy speaking to the artist about the work, to get information about how it works – that’s been a big selling point for us. It’s like handwriting in some ways. Handwritten letters are becoming such a rare thing, even people of the older generation would rarely write a letter these days. The actual art of handwriting is in danger of becoming instinct. There is something so much more personal about a message that has been handwritten.”
In the same fashion, there is something so much more personal about a handmade object. As Hill puts it, in an ever-growing technical and global age where chain businesses dominate the market, the rarer the item the more valuable it becomes. Innocente adds that this is a quality T’Arts strives to carry on into the next decade of the organisation.
“We would like to keep that going and we’d like to attract some younger artists into the collective to keep the tradition going instead of seeing it die out.”
Hill adds: “The big challenge is that it has to be run by the members themselves and it needs to be supported by the members. You’ve got to be able to subdue your personal interests for the sake of the collective. If you’re going to drive your own agenda and needs, then you’re not in the right place with this collective. We support and try to push and sell one another’s work.”
It’s the motto that goes back to the founding members of T’Arts, such as Lynn Elzinga-Henry, who says that the concept behind the collective was always based on interaction between members.
“Artists using their collective talents and social networks to showcase their work and to do so in a setting in the heart of Adelaide was always an impossible dream for each individual member but a sustainable reality for T’Arts. The concept was and is brilliant. There have been quite a few collectives that have come and gone in Adelaide primarily because they lacked the key elements that T’Arts has: the numbers, the breadth of talent, the organisational skills and the prime location that is manned six days a week. Gays Arcade with its three shopfronts was an absolute godsend and a huge leap of faith for 37 fairly wealth challenged individuals. The original fit out included ‘best pieces’ from just about everyone’s home. Our aim was to be greater than the sum of our parts and we achieved that despite the original directors being continuously pushed to the edge of their capabilities. I honestly believe that having stayed in there as a group for 10 years T’Arts could well become even more of an Adelaide institution.”