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Byron Shire
May 16, 2021

Our local artists on show

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Angus McDonald.
Angus McDonald.

The Easter Arts Classic is an exciting community visual-art event that has become an integral part of the cultural fabric of the northern rivers region.

It opens on Wednesday 1 April at 6pm at the Byron Theatre and is on show until Thursday 8 April. Judges this year are Emma Walker, David Young and Brett Adlington, and curator is artist Angus McDonald. Angus spoke about what it takes to create the classic.

When it comes to curating the Byron Arts Classic, what will you be looking for?

The Byron Arts Classic is not like a conventional art prize. Everything submitted in the BAC is included. It’s more like a festival in that sense. An art love-in, baby!

I’ll be looking for general themes and ideas across all the various media submitted and will be grouping works from that perspective.

How has our art community evolved over the years? Do you think we’ve moved on from dolphins and chakra paintings?

The whole of the art world has evolved massively in the last 20 years. On a micro level, the experience in our art community is the same. For a start, there are many more artists now. The digital age has been the biggest single factor in that evolution. It’s enabled people in regions such as ours to be more connected to artists everywhere, to the movements and styles going on in art. It’s also provided more opportunity for artists in regions to sell their work outside the traditional gallery representation model, which was historically concentrated in the large centres such as Sydney and Melbourne.

Do you think we suffer from the lack of a ‘shire’ gallery in line with the ‘regional’ galleries in Tweed and LIsmore?

Absolutely. Regional galleries are fabulous conduits to engage the whole community. They bring excellent touring shows by established artists, prize exhibitions such as the Archibald to us. They create opportunities for local artists to engage the community by exhibiting in museum-style spaces. They provide a voice for the arts at a more serious level in the language of the local community that can get respect nationwide. I’d be surprised if a large number of local people from Byron visit those galleries often.

The Tweed River Regional Gallery’s recent opening of the Margaret Olley Centre has catapulted a fabulous regional gallery into a national institution.

In your opinion what are the most common mistakes people make in their work?

Saying it’s finished when it’s about 75 per cent finished!

What are the categories?

There are five categories: painting, works on paper, photography, sculpture and textiles. Check out the details online and enter a piece, folks.

Is this show only for people in the Byron Shire?

No. Not only Byron. It’s open to any artist working in those categories from the Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Tweed shires.

Would you encourage someone to become an artist?

Sure, if they are built that way.

I’d say that you don’t choose art, it chooses you. For most artists, there’s no choice in the matter and if it’s real to you then once you resolve yourself to inhabit that existence, it’s impossible to imagine doing anything else or finding something else to occupy your life that has the same thrill and meaning.

What are the major challenges artists face in this area and in general?

Less opportunity to study, to find mentors; fewer opportunities to form partnerships and relationships with people who are able to support and drive artists enabling them to realistically make that occupation a full-time gig.

And finally a lack of benchmarks with which to measure their progress in their art against a large pool of top talent.

The trick for artists here is to make sure they engage with that wider community. And if they are serious about study, get to a significant respected art school in the city. It’s a place to learn but also to build relationships with others that will last into the future. You can always come back later!

The Easter Arts Classic at the Byron Community Centre until Thursday April 8.


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