Hanging out with OA for six years: farewell to Paris Norton

Art Unlimited 2012: a young aspiring photographer takes the Orana Arts prize for Emerging Indigenous Artist. The winning photograph ‘Uncle Bud’ played with layering techniques aiming for texture, while capturing an image of cultural strength and pride. It was evident that the artist had self-imposed a challenge with the medium as well as the subject and it inspired me to award this work the prize. The artwork was progressive and refreshing and very much a representation of the young artist — and it was this energy that was eventually brought to Orana Arts when Paris Norton joined the team.

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After my brief encounter with Paris at the exhibition in Dunedoo, I tracked her down in her boutique store in Coonabarabran to encourage her to participate in our Left Field Project. Her involvement with OA went from artist to part-time admin support as an unofficial member of the team. As months passed and funding became available, a few days grew into a few years and a full time position resulting into Paris becoming our ATSIA Programs Manager. 

Her humility has always struck me as her strength; her ability to inspire those around her either with her creative vision or leading conversations by pushing for Aboriginal voices to be heard. Her brainchild, the CETA program, is evidence of her abilities. 

Paris may say that I was a major part of her growth in the arts world, but she has given me more than she could ever imagine. Her insight and respect for her culture provided me with what I needed most in my role: someone that I can talk to, someone who helped guide me and our organisation in moving forward with Aboriginal programs and artists. Someone described Paris to me as being gentle, with an ability to be persuasive in her commentary on Indigenous issues. She stands very tall and proud as a Gamilaroi woman and I’m confident that her voice is one that will be heard by many future generations. 

Warm and fuzzy feelings are scarce in my role as Executive Director, but I received one from Paris when she jokingly mentioned that her family referred to me as her ‘American Mom’ and then at a panel session that Paris was convening for OA, as I sat in the audience her Mum turned to me and said, ‘oh, Alicia our little girl is all grown up’. Yes, she is all grown up and I will miss her! 

The greatest compliment I could have received as the boss of OA was to have staff headhunted out of my team for greater opportunities within a major cultural institute, and on behalf of our Board and the OA team we wish Paris well in her new role as AIATSIS curator,  we can’t wait to see what she brings to the position. 

 

Alicia Rodriguez Leggett
Executive Director 

 

PS – Paris will still be overseeing many of her own programs and supporting her mentee Danielle Andrews as she joins the OA Board as a co-opted member in 2019. 

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Meet our new Cultural Projects Officer

Thanks to Creative Koori funding through Create NSW, Orana Arts has been able to employ Danielle Andrews to work with our ATSIA Programs Manager Paris Norton on the CETA program and other projects. Danielle is a Gamilaroi woman who grew up in Coonabarabran and is now based in Dubbo. Danielle shares a bit about herself below.

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My journey in the arts started when I was 10 years old with learning to play the clarinet and violin. In high school I discovered my love for musical theatre, performing in three school productions. From here I knew I wanted a career in the arts, so I attended Charles Sturt University to study a Bachelor of Communications for Theatre/Media. During my time studying I gained knowledge in a number of different theatre styles and roles. Roles I worked in included: hair/makeup design, costume design, set design, musical directing, stage management, dramaturgy, AV design, and even performance. Furthermore, I have been dancing since the age of three which provided me with the skills necessary to gain work with an indigenous Dance company from Armidale, which then gave me the tools needed to create my own dance troupe of young girls in my local community of Coonabarabran. The dance group specialised in Traditional Dance and performed at many formal events throughout the community. 

My proudest professional moment so far has been landing the role of cultural projects officer here at Orana Arts. I’m ecstatic to know within this position I will have the opportunity to stay connected with all the communities involved, continue to develop my artistic skills, and assist in creating opportunities for rural communities to express their own artistic stories.

Growing up in rural Australia I understand how artistic forms and styles can seem difficult to access. I remember having to travel to Sydney on a regular basis just to experience theatre or exhibitions. I am excited to know that I am part of an organisation that endeavours to create opportunities for regional communities to not only experience different styles of art but also allow the community to learn how to create their own masterpieces.  

The last production I went to see was Cosi, a comedy by Louis Nowra performed by the school of communication and creative industries and cycle productions in Bathurst. The show takes place in a psychiatric hospital where a young Australian director tries to create an adaption of the Mozart opera ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ with patients in the hospital. The performance was hilarious and I was blown away by the overall aesthetic of the show. 

ARTS 2025 Regional NSW Sessions

You are invited to join Create NSW for one of two sector engagement and information sessions taking place in our region:

Coonabarabran
Monday 28 May, 2–4pm
Community Services Meeting Room

Dubbo
Wednesday 30 May, 2–4pm
Drama Room, Community Arts Centre

These sessions are a chance to have your say about art and culture in our region and to discuss your own plans and projects with Create NSW representatives.
RSVP to communications@oranaarts.com by Thursday 24 May.  

 

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Announcing Soup Sessions: Winter 2018

Soup Sessions: micro-funding for community projects.

Creatives
Bring your 5 minute project pitch. Sell the audience on your idea and answer questions over dinner. If you receive the most votes you take home the proceeds (less costs) and any donations made on the night.

Audience
You have the power! Entry fee of $15 includes a bowl of hot soup, bread roll and one vote. Support your local creative community and choose which project gets the funds.
 
Soup Sessions are a fun way to network and raise money for your creative project. This year we will be running three Soup Sessions across the region, in collaboration with local community groups. Start coming up with your project pitches for:

Mudgee: 14 June at The Stables
(youth soup session, pitches from creatives 12—25 years)
Coonabarabran: 26 July at Coonabarabran Town Hall
Wellington: date and venue TBC

If you would like to discuss bringing a Soup Session to your community, please contact us

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CETA Lab 2: meet the mentor (part two)

Part two of our interview with the creative technologist Annie McKinnon sees her talk about the CETA Ukerbarley project and her response to the Ukerbarley environment. If you haven't read part one yet – about art and technology and mentorship – you can find it here

On her first visit to Ukerbarley:
It was totally calming – I went in putting a lot of pressure on myself about the project and feeling anxiety around how we might look at a place as rich and vast as Ukerbarley. I was aware of the rare, vibrant and thriving ecologies within this larger landscape.

I was sitting in the backseat of the ute. Jill and Jeremy – the National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers – were driving us through and I was just sitting there and I just felt so calm. I was looking at this place and thought wow, it’s so beautiful. It was like a blanket sitting on top of you and I immediately felt calm. That was my first experience of Ukerbareley.

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On Ukerbarley:
It makes me feel amazed. I’m constantly in awe of the colours – wherever you drive or walk in that environment there’s something new to look at; it’s full of different textures. Growing up in Coonabarabran – my dad works for the National Parks – so I’ve been to the Warrumbungles hunderds of times and you see such beautiful ecologies and textures.

On the first Ukerbarley visit we saw an emu with six chicks running around and rare rock-tailed wallabies just hopping around and they had vibrant yellow tails. It just makes it feel very precious; there’s something really powerful about the place, like it has so much to give and there’s so much there to explore.

What stands out for me the most is just how welcoming the landscape feels – it feels like a massive mouth and you’re driving into it and the trees come around you like a big hug. You look up into them – one morning we stopped there and the birds were all singing and I’ve never heard that many birds at once singing. We got the recorder out and we caught all of that. There aren’t that many words for how that feels, being completely immersed in nature. I came straight from the city and you feel like you’ve been taken into another world but in another way you feel connected to who you are and what you’re doing; your role on the planet, specifically in this place.

It’s a very generous place. I feel when I’m at Ukerbarley that I have a huge responsibility – that landscape and that environment has been able to communicate that to me or awaken that in me. I have a responsibility to give back in some way or to listen and to understand what I can of this place. It does feel like it wants to give and that it’s very, very much alive – it feels quite magical and surreal.

On CETA:
What excites me about this project is that Paris is wanting to push boundaries and challenge ideas and I’m getting to feed these super-exciting ideas back and forth with her – being at Ukerbarley takes you out of the riff-raff of the everyday. I guess what excites me about it is how large the project can be but also how centred the project is and how we can actually make quite a big statement together, or I can be part of Paris’ process in making an artwork that can inform a connection to place and a practice of connecting to place that may not have been documented in such a way through art and community; engaging with interactive technologies: it’s the bringing together of all of those things that excites me the most.

We’re right in the middle of it right now and I’m full of thoughts and ideas around it and I’m just so excited to see what becomes of it and how it plays out in the future. I hope that it keeps growing – it’s an incredibly exciting time. 

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Country Arts Support Program: CASP recipients announced!

Minister for the Arts Don Harwin has announced that regional and rural arts organisations from around NSW are to benefit from nearly $250,000 in small-grant funding.

The Country Arts Support Program (CASP) will fund 76 organisations to support community arts and cultural development across NSW and there are a number of exciting projects coming up in our region. Congratulations to the following organisations and look out for these projects coming to a town near you in 2018:

Creatives Collective: Develop, Support, Display - Artists with Disability Coonabarabran
(Part 1)
($2,420)
Creatives Collective will create a 12-month project to develop local artists with disability through a series of workshops with professional artists with disability. The project will culminate in an exhibition exploring what it is to create art with disability. 

Kandos Museum Inc: Creative Fundraising Practical Workshop Series at Kandos Museum ($3,000) 
Kandos Museum will host two workshops to teach skills in designing and hand-printing souvenir tea towels and tote bags. The workshops will focus on building capacity for community groups, with participants learning how to produce authentic, local artwork as a sustainable means of funding and promoting their group. 

Moorambilla Voices Ltd: Yabang Taiko (taiko path) ($2,745)
Moorambilla Voices Ltd and Taikoz will join forces to bring Japanese percussion ‘taiko’ to rural remote Baradine, establishing a group of young adults that will undertake an intense taiko workshop to gain the appreciation in the art form and strengthen their performance. 

Narromine Shire Council: Trangie Water Tower Art ($2,594)
The Trangie Action Group will identify suitable buildings in the area and work with a selected artist to install a series of murals across the town.

Nyngan Arts Council: Our Place Our Spaces ($5,000)
Our Places, Our Spaces - an exhibition of new work created by two Nyngan artists, will explore the concept of places and spaces within the Bogan Shire. This exhibition will be curatorially supported by Western Plains Cultural Centre and exhibited at the Nyngan Fire Station Arts Centre and WPCC. 

Western Plains Cultural Centre - Our Stories: Cultural Walking Tours of Dubbo ($1,700)
Using the development of a walking tour of the public art of central Dubbo as a foundation of this project, digital media artist Kim V. Goldsmith will deliver two two-part community workshops in June/July 2018 to encourage individuals and community groups of the region to tell their stories as tours. 

For the full list of CASP recipients visit the Regional Arts NSW website.

Image: 2017 CASP project, the Mudgee Zine-Makers (credit: Amber Hooper)

Image: 2017 CASP project, the Mudgee Zine-Makers (credit: Amber Hooper)

CETA Lab 2: meet the mentor (part one)

Annie McKinnon is a creative technologist and sound artist, currently based in Sydney. Annie grew up in Coonabarabran and moved to Sydney in 2010 to study a Bachelor of Sound and Music Design at UTS. After she completed her studies she started as a research assistant in the Interaction Studio and as part of that team became much more immersed in interaction design and creative technologies.

Annie has come on board for Lab 2 of CETA: Ukerbarley and after an intensive and invigorating stint working on the project, she shares her thoughts with us in the first of a two-part interview.

On working as a creative technologist:
I work with electronics, sound and software to create artworks or products. I’ve worked in lots of different industries with many collaborators. CETA is so different to the project that I was working on twelve months ago – to design an exhibition that would tour for three years – so my project briefs are always changing. I’ve got a bit of a mish-mash of skills so I get to work on quite varied things; really I’m a bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ – sometimes that’s hard and sometimes that's good. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster. You don’t always know when your next job will be but it’s exciting to be an artist in this space – it’s always changing and evolving, and I’ve always got new tools to work with, which I really love. 

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On technology and art:
I don’t think that tech and art necessarily have to work together. I think it’s important that each of those things separately are always commenting on one another—as an artist you can use technology as a tool just like a painter uses a paintbrush. As a technologist, being aware of art and the value of art and how that can inform your practice is important as well… I do think that our current society is very dismissive of artists and art and the value that it brings, which is to our detriment because a lot of the time art is able to communicate things that we don’t yet have a language for or capacity to explain.

Technology is something that is ever-changing and rapidly morphing our world into something new – it’s uncharted territory – and using art and tech, those two things working in symbiosis will bring an understanding that will be much richer than the two being totally singular. There’s a cross-pollination and from that you get some really exciting things.

On the mentor role in CETA:
My role in CETA is as a mentor to Paris Norton but I see Paris much more as a collaborator and a friend—we get along really well and our families are both from Coonabarabran. It was probably ten years ago when I saw Paris at a friend’s birthday party and we started talking – it was pretty late at night – and we both were really keen even at that time to talk about ideas.
I do remember saying that it would be really cool to work together one day so it’s really great to finally – ten years later – have that opportunity. I’m really excited and grateful that Paris and Orana Arts contacted me to be a part of this project because I think it’s really important and exciting.

Click here to read part two of our interview with Annie McKinnon — about the CETA Ukerbarley project and her response to the Ukerbarley environment. 

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CETA Lab 1

The CETA (Contemporary Environment Technology Arts) project is running full steam ahead in Coonabarabran. The final stage of Lab 1 was completed last week through community consultation sessions, after the initial mapping of the Ukerbarley property by artists Paris Norton, Annie McKinnon and Dylan Goolagong, with the support of National Parks and Wildlife Services rangers.

The first stage of CETA – with a planned roll-out across the region – is Ukerbarley. Ukerbarley is a property that until recently hasn’t been accessible to Aboriginal people or the broader community. Since the 1920s it has been a private property and is now in the care of National Parks and Wildlife Services, acting caretakers for the traditional owners of the land.

Lead artist Paris Norton – a Gamilaroi woman raised in Coonabarabran – has a reverence for the space. She says ‘The environment is really striking. It’s been untouched for so long. What’s there has always been – it’s uncleared and the animals are unafraid, undisturbed and full of curiosity. The energy of the place is really special.’

The property contains many Aboriginal sites, the meaning of which hasn’t yet been fully explored. Looking at how technology and arts could help a community – to access and map a space in different ways and connect it back to culture – is what inspired the project.

CETA is a chance to reclaim the space culturally. It has become the community’s property through the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which identifies Ukerbarley as an Aboriginal area and so ‘a project like this is an opportunity for community to take back the narrative,’ says Norton.

The community consultation process has revealed a wealth of ideas of how to map and share this narrative, with technological elements allowing an access to Ukerbarley not otherwise possible for some community Elders. These ideas will be developed through Lab 2, which will build on cultural and community engagement and present documentation to the community by the end of the year.

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Orana Region Writing

There are a variety of groups around the region for budding writers to share their work and hone their craft. Here are a few opportunities for literary connection:

Coona Writers
A newly formed writers group to help, encourage and share writing. Meets at the Coonabarabran Library. Get in touch via the CoonaWriters Facebook Group.

Cudgegong Valley Writers
CVW meet in Room 2 of Club Mudgee on the second Friday of each month,
12–3pm. Anyone with an interest in writing is welcome to attend. They hold competitions and workshops, monthly themed readings and writing trigger games. Contact Jill Baggett for more information.

The Orana Writers’ Hub
Run by the Outback Writers’ Centre, the Orana Writers meet regularly in Dubbo. Contact Val Clark or visit the Outback Writers’ Centre for more information.

Point Blank Writers
Run through the Gilgandra Shire Library, this group meets once a month and have a different workshop on writing each meeting. All welcome – to join contact Gilgandra Shire Library on 6817 8877 or via email.