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Putting the local arts scene centre stage


Putting the local arts scene centre stage

Creatives and audiences alike are applauding greater funding for and emphasis on artistic endeavours in all their forms. WORDS: Ingrid Nelson.

Over the years, we have seen the growth and evolution of the arts scene on the Sunshine Coast. Today, the region has more creatives than ever before, with many people working full time in the arts, turning their passion and skill into profitable careers.

Latest research shows the region’s creative arts sector, which comprises everyone from painters to podcasters, is evolving and diversifying with great momentum.

Results reveal that nine-in-10 locals agree that arts and culture make the Sunshine Coast a better place to live, while 96 per cent have attended an arts event, and one in two participated.

The success story was heard at the latest meeting of Sunshine Coast Council.

Councillors unanimously voted to adopt the Sunshine Coast Creative Arts Plan 2023-2038, the second iteration of its 20-year plan, to shape and support the sector over the next 15 years.

Councillors were told that this would build on the previous plan, which was a first for the region when adopted in 2018.

Sunshine Coast Arts Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski says the arts plan has been a genuinely positive influence.

“Council developed its first arts plan in 2018 to set the foundations for the creative arts to further flourish in the region – and flourish they did,” Cr Baberowski says.

“We’ve seen exceptional growth and real development in the sector over the past five years.’’

A recent sector survey very encouragingly found that 42 per cent of respondents are working full-time in the arts, which has increased from 31 per cent in 2017.

It also revealed that artists able to generate income from their practice has increased from 55 to 61 per cent.

In the years following the first arts plan, Sunshine Coast Council’s Creative Arts and Events team led a series of focused development programs, designed to build the capacity of local artists and strengthen the region’s creative sector.

Ruby Donohoe, an interdisciplinary performance-maker whose exhibition This is Incomplete Without You was recently on show at Caloundra Regional Gallery, says the programs provided opportunities for artistic growth and challenge.

“These programs provide structured scaffolding for the development of new skills with the freedom for self-driven direction,” Ms Donohoe says.

“They are crucial for increased visibility within both industry and community.

“They also offer immeasurable tangential opportunities through connection – professional networks, audience development, partnership pathways and artistic collaborations.

“The fruits of these programs will ripple through for many years to come.”

Cr Baberowski says two critical objectives have been to deliver more professional development and increase the number of spaces.

As a result, the Coast now has more arts venues and facilities, greater creative programming, and additional training opportunities for artists.

“These results are really a great testament to building a culture of sector collaboration and of council’s close relationship with its strategic advisors – the Sunshine Coast Arts Advisory Board.” Cr Baberowski says.

The teams behind the delivery of the Sunshine Coast Creative Arts Plan are ever mindful of the dynamics of the sector. The plan will be formally reviewed within the next five years, by 2028 – four years prior to the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the planning and delivery of the 2032 Cultural Olympiad.

Sunshine Coast Arts Advisory Board chair Maz McGann has worked with local councils, arts and community organisations across Australia and says the arts are vitally important for connecting the community.

“It was fascinating at the height of the pandemic: people started to realise how important the arts were in terms of comfort, stimulation and staying connected,” Ms McGann says.

“People were locked down and anxious and isolated and they turned to books, music, film and even creating their own arts and craft. On a deeper level, the arts provide us with an opportunity to express ourselves in a way we might not otherwise be able to. It’s an assumption that we all communicate in a pretty linear way. That’s not the case. The arts provide us with ways to communicate that are a little bit left of centre, particularly when it comes to learning.”

Supporting First Nations artists, through their culture and ensuring they are more visible across the Coast through public art interpretation, is a vitally important part of the creative arts plan.

“It’s really critical to have that. They are the oldest living culture in the world and the fact that we have those tens-of- thousands of years of knowledge and cultural complexities at our fingertips is a huge advantage for us,” Ms McGann says.

“There is so much learn. You talk to Indigenous people and the ideas of creativity and engaging in culture is embedded in their everyday life.”

The Events Centre Caloundra chief executive officer Bronwyn Edinger has been at the helm of the venue since late last year and is another strong advocate for the arts on the Coast.

“We are aligned with the notion that people have a right to experience art in their own communities,” Ms Edinger says.

“It means we can bring great music, ballet, comedy and other genres of performing arts to the Sunshine Coast, so people don’t have to travel to experience it.

“We have a really strong music focus, with some top-notch international and national names and we have increased our classical music, musical theatre and comedy focus.”

Passionate about giving local artists a platform for their work, Ms Edinger says she is focused on supporting them further, allowing them opportunities to achieve a more national profile.

“Areas I am focused on for the future is broadening the palette of local professional work that we have on offer for the community,” she says.

“We are ramping up our theatre program, circus, cabaret and professional dance and putting together a plan to better engage with the community to support our local professional performing artists.”

Ms McGann says The Events Centre is aiming to strengthen its impact in the community by offering discounted rates for some community groups to be able to access the program.

“We also support a senior choir who perform at the venue and we are helping a group of people who have been undertaking NDIS workshops who are performing a show in our smaller performance space next month,” she says.

“It is going to be such a special event for them, their family and friends.”


  • 96 per cent of Sunshine Coast participants attended an arts event
  • 1 in 2 creatively participated in the arts
  • 82 per cent attended music and 71 per cent attended visual arts and craft events
  • 61 per cent attended theatre and dance
  • 9-in-10 participants agree that arts and culture make the Sunshine Coast a better place.

Theatre Groups on the Sunshine Coast

  • Little Seed Theatre Company
  • Sunshine Coast Youth Theatre
  • BATS Theatre Company
  • Lind Lane Theatre
  • BYTE youth theatre
  • Black Box Theatre – Old Ambulance Nambour
  • Acting Up Youth Theatre

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