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 Da Contents H2

May 20 2015
RealTime Writing Workshop
Four reviews of Vivienne Walshe's This is where we live, HotHouse Theatre. Murray Arts

February 23 2015
On the border: practice & potential
Keith Gallasch, Interview: Karen Gardner, Murray Arts

February 4 2015
Water play and sensory circuits
Joel Markham: Vic McEwan’s Almost an embrace

August 18 2014
Compassionately adrift
Vic McEwan: Scott Howie, Boat/Person

Screening memory
Urszula Dawkins: Interview, Curator Bridget Crone, The Cinemas Project

June 9 2014
Deep cultural waters on the banks of the Shoalhaven
Keith Gallasch: Interview, Deborah Ely, CEO, Bundanon Trust

Together, listening to landscape
Gail Priest: Wired Open Day 2014, The Wired Lab

May 21 2014
realtime tv: Sarah Last, Wired Open Day

April 22 2014
Enjoying the heat in the kitchen
Keith Gallasch: HotHouse Theatre, Albury-Wodonga

See, and hear, history come and go
Jason Richardson: The CAD Factory, In the Heart of the Past

December 9 2013
Re-inscribing nature
Jade Wildy: Mildura Palimpsest #9

November 13 2013
Regional Profile: Jason Richardson
Gail Priest

Regional Profiles: The Ronalds
Gail Priest

October 30 2013
Grong Grong Creative House
The Cad Factory, Grong Grong

October 23 2013
Rice, rituals and relationships
Gail Priest: A Night of Wonder, The Cad Factory & SunRice, Coleambally

October 14 2013
Eastern Riverina sites & sounds
Gail Priest : Interview, Sarah Last, Wired Lab

August 19 2013
Realising regional ambitions
Gail Priest: Scott Howie, RADO, Eastern Riverina Arts

June 6 2013
Art for water
Gail Priest, interview Vic McEwan, Cad Factory


Jeff McCann, Wayne Emerson, Scott Lea, 8 Artists, Eastern Riverina Arts Jeff McCann, Wayne Emerson, Scott Lea, 8 Artists, Eastern Riverina Arts
photo Christopher Orchard
Continuing our series on innovative arts ventures in Wagga Wagga and surrounding regions, here we look into the activities of the peak advocacy and support body in the area, Eastern Riverina Arts (ERA). I spoke with Scott Howie, Regional Arts Development Officer and practising artist.

Previously an English, Drama and Media teacher in Canberra, Howie moved to Wagga in 1999 to study Film and Television at Charles Sturt University. Dissatisfied with the technological barriers placed between him and actors/audiences in the broadcast medium, he created performance works exploring modes of interactivity, forming his own company Jibshot.

Of the opportunities at the time Howie says, “Things were cheap, people were encouraging. There was a professional theatre company that was interested in working with me as someone doing young and emerging work beyond what they were programming…It was kind of low risk financially. You could afford to experiment. If it didn’t work you weren’t going to lose a huge artistic reputation. We’re talking maybe 12 years ago—regional activity was quite low and it was easy to stand up and say, ‘Hey, I’m somebody who’s practising regionally.’ And it was quite easy to get some funding. It’s much more competitive now that the level of regional activity has just exploded.”

Generating projects, connecting people

Howie suggests this explosion of activity results in part from artists moving to or remaining in the area in order to feel “more connected to the landscape, more connected to community. And certainly for me it’s about that. It’s about having time and space for contemplation.” It’s also due to people like Howie and the activities of organisations like Eastern Riverina Arts. There are in fact 14 Regional Arts Development Organisations (RADOs) in NSW that are triennially funded by Arts NSW and from local council contributions.

Howie describes the role of Eastern Riverina Arts: “We’re about arts and cultural development so we generate projects across the region, promote what’s going on and run training workshops. The whole notion for me is about how we connect people. We’re brokering relationships, whether that’s assisting the local conservatorium of music to tour its work throughout our region to the smaller towns; or bringing in a company like Monkey Baa to tour our smaller volunteer presenter networks; or a big project we’ve just finished—an arts and disability exhibition at the art gallery…And always trying to find opportunities to employ artists at a professional level in a professional manner.”

In the gallery, on the road

The last project to which Howie refers was titled 8 artists and involved extended studio collaboration between four pairings—artists with and without disabilities—culminating in an exhibition at the Wagga Wagga Regional Gallery. The works by Wayne Emerson with Jeff McCann, Angela Coombs Matthews with Kellie Hulm, Vic McEwan with Scott Lea and Jacqui Meyers with Julia Davies included mixed media, painting, mosaic and video installation. (The beautifully produced catalogue is available for download at

A playful, smaller scale project, Car Boot Gallery, saw Howie touring to 10 local council areas exhibiting works commissioned from artists, one from each area, out of the back of his car. Howie says, “It provided a survey of the range of artistic practice in the area from [artists] with professional exhibition experience to young emerging artists. It’s great for us to get out there and meet the artists so that they know what we’re doing.”

On the performance front, Eastern Riverina Arts is co-ordinating the Short & Sweet Play Festival which has received funding to roll out in regional areas. Local playwrights and actors will be working out of the Cootamundra Arts Centre, an old carriageworks donated by the council to a local volunteer group who have converted it into a 120-seat theatre and exhibition space. ERA is also running a two-year hip-hop dance program with young people across six towns resulting in a series of dance films that will tour the region. The organisation has also just assisted the artists Greg Pritchard and collaborative husband and wife duo The Ronalds in a streaming broadcast project that was part of Underbelly on Cockatoo Island in Sydney.

Speaking up for art

As well as administering a small funding program on behalf of Regional Arts NSW, Eastern Riverina Arts also plays a vital advocacy role in the region. Scott Howie cites a recent example where the Wagga Wagga City Council developed an ambitious public art program including two $60,000 commissions for works sited at the airport. Howie says, “Of course in tight financial situations a lot of people would question the value of that. So we jump into that debate and talk about what it actually costs and what artists actually do.” ERA will shortly be running a one-day conference on public art and art trails, bringing leading Indigenous artist Fiona Foley, who has created a number of significant public art works, from Queensland as guest speaker.

Challenges & resonances

Activity in the region has increased dramatically over the time that Howie has lived in the area. There are now a number of organisations and groups producing contemporary work attracting national attention, such as The Cad Factory (Vic and Sarah McEwan, see RT115), Wired Lab (Sarah Last and David Burraston), White Box Theatre (Kim Hardwick and Martin Kinnane) and The Ronalds (Patrick and Shannon Ronald). However funding is still somewhat limited. Howie ponders, “How many more artists and arts organisations can we sustain at this level? When you carve up the pie who else are we going to be able to support? How’s anyone else going to be able to bubble up?”

Howie also fears that the techno-utopia promised by the National Broadband Network may not fully eventuate. “I do think we’re still going to have a two-speed digital economy. We are going to have lower upload speeds than metro cities…The challenge for us regionally is how we put things in place that allow us to send stuff out. Do we need to have some digital streaming studios that are portable? A lot of the work that happens that’s interesting in our region is site-specific. How do we ensure that we’ve got technology available [for that]?”

The other challenge Howie sees is the lack of critique. “It’s tricky to get people out here to look at the work. Unless you really want to focus on promoting what you’re doing to the metros it’s really hard to even be noticed. So we need to raise that culture of not being afraid to critique the work that’s going on here—and to seek that.” Which is where RealTime comes in. As part of our regional focus, RealTime managing editors Keith Gallasch and Virginia Baxter will be conducting a series of writing workshops in the region to assist in the development of a robust culture of commentary and critique.

Scott Howie is very positive about developments in the region and particularly in audiences. In a follow-up email he writes, “I think audiences are becoming increasingly open to new experiences, things that re-imagine or reconfigure spaces, that have strong local connections either through space, people or content…Knowledge of the genre/artform/discipline is less important as long as the work resonates within communities.” We look forward to exploring these resonances in our upcoming coverage of Cad Factory’s Sunrice Project and the Wired Lab’s Open Day in coming print and online editions of RealTime.

Eastern Riverina Arts,

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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