Let the music play, the artists draw, and the actors perform and may there be a big and appreciative audience to applaud.
After all, as local businessman and arts aficionado Ferre De Deyne quoted at the launch of Sunshine Coast Arts Foundation (SCAF) GIFTED! program, “A community without culture is a community without soul.”
If that truly is the case, after a COVID-induced dearth of entertainment, the Coast’s soul is not only alive and well, it is significantly enriched from last Friday’s events.
At Kawana’s Venue 114, Mr De Deyne became the inaugural donor to the GIFTED! program. In line with SCAF’s 20-year arts plan, the program provides a body for philanthropic investment aimed at supporting the growth of the arts on the Sunshine Coast.
Along with the launch of the GIFTED! program, the evening revealed the findings of a jointly commissioned report by the Sunshine Coast Council and SCAF. The report focuses on the Sunshine Coast arts and cultural audience, including the identification of their likes and preferences, what it takes to involve and extend audiences and how to better support local talent.
At the same time, just a few blocks away, the much-anticipated opening of the NightQuarter forged ahead and welcomed big crowds to an enormous, vibrant, purpose-built playground for live entertainment, street food, markets, performance and visual arts.
The entrepreneurs behind the NightQuarter Michelle Christoe and Ian Van der Woude founded the concept on the European idea of a family-centric, outdoor, evening entertainment centre.
“The Coast’s great climate makes this the perfect place to get outdoors in the evening and enjoy some entertainment,” Ms Christoe says.
They had originally developed the NightQuarter at Helensvale on the Gold Coast, but rent rises forced their closure. Their popularity was witnessed by a school student who garnered 30,000 signatures on a petition which led to 300,000 emails seeking a change of conditions so the NightQuarter would stay. Happily, for the Sunshine Coast, they decided to look for a new space. Eventually their enquiries culminated in a relocation to the Birtinya precinct, where their development concept was met with a warm reception from Sunshine Coast Council.
Ms Christoe says the opening was a great success with a sell-out crowd according to COVID-restricted numbers.
“The audience were treated with local musicians such as Doolie, Sametime and Toxic Fox and a special elevated appearance from Sarah McLeod.
“NightQuarter also hosted the University of Sunshine Coast’s Creative Industry’s Reconnect Festival featuring more than 30 buskers, slam poetry, a book launch, photography exhibits and Queensland’s first digital gallery choreographed alongside a sound wall installation.”
As always, the Sunshine Coast hinterland fulfilled its reputation as a leading creative area. At Spicers Tamarind Retreat Maleny, part of the 18-acre property was given over to the annual Sculpture on the Edge exhibition, which is running until November 15. (Check out this week’s profile on page 20 to read about this year’s winning artist).
Chair of SCAF, Professor Jennifer Radbourne, says the Coast boasts significant arts resources, including: The Events Centre, the Caloundra Regional Gallery and galleries across the region, talented artists, festivals and events such as the Horizon Festival, spaces for artists to create and work, an inspiring landscape from the coast to the mountains, a great lifestyle, and a very supportive local government.
Of course, it is these people and places that have been severely impacted by COVID. In order to stay alive, and in some cases flourish, event organisers have pivoted and discovered new ways of presentation. For instance, this year the Horizon Festival transitioned to online performances. Held since 2016, the 10-day arts festival, developed by Sunshine Coast Council encourages community participation and opportunities for the local arts sector.
During COVID, rather, than close shop, the planned artists were employed and performed in a virtual presentation – with positive results.
“Our audience increased from 30,000 to 100,000,” says Zoe Graham, acting director of the Horizon Festival.
Horizon Festival, supported by the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) is now calling for submissions from established Sunshine Coast-based artists to present new or existing works as part of Homegrown 2021. Through Homegrown, organisers are seeking contemporary live performances for the 2021 festival – details can be found online.
However, while we are slowly emerging from the COVID lockdown, Professor Radbourne says there have been dire ramifications for people working within creative industries and there is good reason to support, maintain and improve the arts.
Ms Radbourne says, “The arts are part of life. They build our identity and connectedness. They particularly build community wellbeing and resilience. In times of crisis, we often turn to the arts for solace, stimulation and enjoyment.”
She says this why SCAF has decided to facilitate professional development for arts companies and artists across the region to build philanthropic, fundraising and sponsorship skills and strategies for a stronger future for the arts.
“We will work with Creative Partnerships Australia to offer one-on-one, tailored coaching sessions to address organisations’ specific challenges and opportunities to develop new and creative income streams,” she says.
The research undertaken by SCAF and the Council is aimed at providing an innovative strategy to develop audiences into the future.
Sunshine Coast audience and market report: Key findings
Survey participants were asked to rate the importance of various activities in their personal life on a scale from ‘not important’ to ‘very important’. A majority rated ‘spending time with family (79%) and outdoor activities 71% as very important.
Around two-thirds (61%) rated arts and culture as ‘very important’ and a similar proportion (60%) rated socialising with friends this way.
Survey participants were also asked to share the extent to which they personally agreed with several statements related to arts and culture. The majority (93%) said they ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that children should be exposed to a variety of cultural experiences. Many also agreed that arts and culture make for a more meaningful life.
My Weekly Preview asked some locals how they felt about the Coast’s arts and cultural scene and if they would like see more events closer to home.
“I’ve just enjoyed the Qld Ballet at Caloundra, but I would like to see more of the smaller things [rather than the big names] in visual arts and dance.”
“As the Coast grows, we need more variety and different types of cultural experiences to provide for the people coming here.”
“I’m really excited to see the opening of NIghtQuarter, it adds to what we have and can be a focal point for the Coast.”