Aboriginal art call for Karratha hub

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
The Red Earth Arts Precinct is expected to open in 2018.
Camera IconThe Red Earth Arts Precinct is expected to open in 2018. Credit: Pilbara News

Prominent art groups have called on the City of Karratha to put Aboriginal works front and centre as its landmark arts hub takes shape with no permanent gallery.

Port Hedland has the Courthouse Gallery and Newman the Martumilli Gallery, but the City’s Red Earth Arts Precinct will have no such facility, instead relying on temporary display spaces.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said having no permanent display allowed more flexibility.

“There are a number of areas throughout the facility that have been specifically designed to be used as gallery spaces when required such as the main entry, indoor theatre/conference space and ground floor foyer,” he said.

“The intent is to utilise these spaces to display some of the City’s extensive art collection as well as visiting and other local exhibitions.” Yinjaa-Barni Art Group manager Patricia Floyd said displaying art in galleries often resulted in financial losses for the artists.

“The City has a lot of indigenous art from Cossack Art Awards ... by some major artists there they could display,” she said.

“I think that would be good because people don’t see them in the Shire building.

“If there was an exhibition that popped up every now and then ... things like that could be possible but it comes down to what it will cost us to use the space.” The City and Roebourne Art Group fell out last year when RAG’s submissions for the Red Earth Arts Precinct’s interior and exterior sculptures were knocked back despite being the most popular in public opinion polls.

RAG chief executive Rex Widerstrom said comments from the council at the time suggesting the group’s work was “stock-standard” was insulting.

Both sculptures were awarded to Perth-based groups, with the City citing design compliance issues with RAG’s external wall submission as reason to put the tender out again.

Mr Long said the City had worked with RAG to design the shade structure in the precinct’s amphitheatre.

“The City’s public art policy strives to ensure council procures the highest quality and most befitting public artworks for individual projects regardless of where artists are based,” he said.

“Council has a requirement of all artists commissioned under this policy to authentically engage with our community during the commission process, to enable a skills development opportunity and capacity building for our community such as when an artist visits the area from out of the region.”

Mr Long said Perth artist Brad Jackson was working with the Ngarluma people to develop the audio soundscape accompanying his interior sculpture.

Jackson’s two interior submissions were the least popular choices in the 2016 public opinion poll.

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