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  • shaninottingham

ARTLANDS - National Art Gallery, Canberra

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

A few weeks back, ( sheesh, where did that time go....) I was fortunate enough, privileged enough, lucky enough - to be a participant in ARTLANDS, a bi-annual event that brings together creatives from across regional Australia, organised by Regional Arts Australia (of course!) I was supposed to attend one of these a couple of years ago in Launceston, but then COVID happened and the states shut their borders and of course it all went to shit. It did happen online, but it was just not the same, it never could be.

2023's ARTLANDS then was going to be a bit special after a break, but also because for the first time participants did not just buy a ticket to attend - we had to apply.

There was an EOI, a whole rigorous application process that involved making a video, many questions to answer, the usual CV and portfolio kind of deal too. So just being selected felt pretty damn special.

So yes, I was selected. And I could not reveal it for WEEKS. There was an embargo on telling anyone. It almost killed me. I was very chuffed. And yet...

If I am honest, I was truly nervous, very anxious, a bit freaked out about attending it. Not sure what to expect, and nervous about PEOPLE, social anxieties kicking in (and what to wear, what to pack... what accessories... ?!)

The thing that eventually calmed me was eventually finding out that also attending ARTLANDS was my dear friend of many years who lives in the same little town as me. The friend who I had never had much time to just hang out with, because you know, life happens, for both of us. Bus , busy busy.

Neither of us had even known we had applied, and as we had been given strict instructions to NOT reveal we had been chosen until the approved date, when the successful applicants were revealed and we saw each others names, we both did happy dancing for days. There was much rejoicing! Thank you Universe.

So there we are - eventually the day arrives, our HUGE cases are packed into my Mini Cooper, and we are on our way.

I need not have been nervous. The people there were overwhelmingly excellent humans. The amount of creativity that was packed into the conference hall at The national Gallery was mind blowing.

The information, the knowledge, the themes, the topics, the ideas and processes that were discussed and explored were dense, rich, impactful, intense. The key note speakers and hosts were multi-faceted, multi-disciplined and erudite.

Quite simply though, my brain hurt. It ached. It was fit to bursting, but in that it 'hurts so good' way. As we investigated the future of the arts in Regional Australia, and possible ways to support, nurture, facilitate the arts, the positives and negatives, the difficulties, the opportunities, the ideas flew thick and fast. Emotions and passions were high — these are things we care about deeply. It was never going to be any other way.

In no way do I want to sound flippant, so it is important that this serious stuff is given its space. But to me, personally, the most valuable thing, at least initially, short term, was the connecting and networking, the friendships that began, and the friendships that were strengthened by coming together at Artlands. And the inspiration and sense of camaraderie that came from learning about others arts practice, the pride in being regional.

Now, a few weeks after the event, that lovey friend and I, the one who makes me laugh, keeps me feeling so grateful for having her in my life, and is just as mad as me - we have kept discussing and debriefing the entire experience, as I know we will for years yet. There is so much me/we will reflect on and move forwards with.

Mid to long term, who knows what this experience will produce, only time will tell. It can be hard to quantify the intangible too, so when people have asked what I got out of it, I truly find it hard to answer in a clear concise way. In my head though, I know whatever happens, it is almost certainly positive.

Bring on the next one...

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