Country Arts uncovers regional stories in 2018 program

Country Arts SA celebrates 25 years in 2018 by changing direction slightly as the organisation will work more closely with artists in regional areas to make new work as well as present shows throughout the state.

The event that instigated this evolution was the inaugural Mt Gambier Fringe in February of this year, as three of the works Country Arts co-presented — Eyes, Our Corka Bubs and We are the World — all featured in the first week of the regional Fringe event.

“For us, that really cemented our thinking around making work that takes inspiration or influence from regional South Australia and to create work that you can’t create when you’re in a metropolitan setting,” Country Arts program director Anthony Peluso says. “It is really about regional South Australia.

“It’s about making work that no other company makes. For us it’s about finding those unique confluences between regional communities, settings and great artists and uncovering great stories.”

Country Arts, which has presented more than 37,000 performances and given out $9 million of grants to artists over the last 24 years, will continue to present shows to regional communities.

“For many years our program was about making sure we could get as many great performing and visual arts works out to as many people across the state as possible,” Peluso says. “And there is still a strong element of that next year, importantly our Shows on the Road program, which takes performing arts to smaller centres, and we still take larger-scale works to our art centres.”

creating-coonalpyn-country-arts-adelaide-review
The Coorong District Council’s Creating Coonalpyn project was supported by Country Arts in 2017

One of next year’s shows that embody this new direction is The Gods of Strangers, a co-commission with the State Theatre Company written by Elena Carapetis.

“Elena’s family has a strong relationship with Port Pirie, so this work is around immigration and is set in Port Pirie, which is an integration of different cultures. For us, it’s another exciting way of uncovering a local story.”

The Gods of Strangers will premiere in Port Pirie before coming to Adelaide. Peluso says that Country Arts increasingly programs work that either springs from or resonates with a particular community of region.

“We want people to look at the program and no matter where you are, whether you’re in regional South Australia or Adelaide, can find an opportunity in regional South Australia that is unique and want to get out to; to encourage tourism in this state. Then, keep the artists there for as long as we possibly can to build deep engagement in the town it’s directly presented in but also broadly in the region it’s presented in as well.”

Peluso cites the impact of a Ben Quilty exhibition positively influencing a regional area, where they worked closely with Bordertown’s Walkway Gallery director Naomi Fallon.

“Last year she presented an exhibition Ben Quilty: From the Collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia. Together we presented three residencies around the discussion of borders and integration and how we quite naturally set up our own borders in daily life.

“The impact of that series and residencies on that town was to really open up that conversation around immigration and integration.”

The exhibition also broke attendance records within three days of opening and Walkway will continue to present big-name work in 2018 with that of Nell, who was part of the 2016 Biennial.

“We expect that exhibition will attract many more people into that town and gallery space to see work that has not been shown before.”

Country Arts will co-present 25 events to celebrate 25 years across the state in 2018 including the inaugural Kangaroo Island Fringe, the touring exhibition Island to Inland (showcasing 10 Kangaroo Island artists), Gravity and Other Myths’ Backbone, Wonderwall Port Pirie, The Season and Lina Limosani’s The Spinners.

To view the 2018 Country Arts SA program, go to countryarts.org.au

Header Image: The Gods of Strangers

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