Kelly Leonard and Art of the Threatened Species

Kelly Leonard is a Mudgee-based weaver and is one of the participating artists in the Art of the Threatened Species project, a partnership between Orana Arts and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Tell us a bit about yourself, please.

I am a regional female artist and a product of my environment. Growing up in Mudgee during the 1970s I was reading feminist theory and listening to Patti Smith on vinyl. In the late 1970s — courtesy of Gough Whitlam’s free education policy — I left home to attend an art college at what was to become Charles Stuart University in Wagga Wagga. Here I met my weaving teacher, Marcella Hempel, a German Master Weaver who had studied under Margaret Leischner, a former teacher in the Textiles Workshop at the Bauhaus Design School in Germany. Marcella instilled in me a philosophy of weaving and a discipline of working.

In my mid-thirties I went back to study a Masters in Visual Art at the Canberra School of Art ANU as it was one of the few places that still had European floor looms and where I could combine weaving with theory. It is still important to me that I am able to frame my work with theory — it helps to place the work in a context.

In my mid-forties I went back to university again to study a Masters of Arts Management at the University of Technology, Sydney. I was the only student there who came from a craft background, most of the others were from music or theatre. The degree was useful when working in the community development sector.

I have travelled and contributed to community development craft projects overseas both as a volunteer and in employment with small non-government organisations. My interest is in working out strategies for communities where I am not needed, where the people can run their own projects. Other areas of interest have been in cooking and operating restaurants and broader community development. 

How do you describe your style of art?

My art in the past two years has moved from a traditional craft based medium to one that is highly conceptual, collaborative and moves across artforms responding to the environment. My work is very much informed by environmental philosophy which provides a context for both making and showing the work.

At the moment I weave what I call props for the environment which are placed in site-specific locations around my hometown of Mudgee, photographed and then removed. The locations are chosen because they are under stress from the impact of the open-cut coal mines operated by big coal mining companies. The images are exhibited online and one of my goals is to develop some alternative broadcasting methods to reach a wider audience in the near future.

I am not that interested in making objects for traditional galleries anymore, although this may change. The work I make is pretty much process-driven and I derive a lot of satisfaction from thinking of the environment as a collaborator and audience.

Actually, there are a number of regional artists who work in a similar way, making work to be placed in the environment and I see these numbers growing as the impacts of climate change increase. 

You are clearly inspired by nature and place — can you tell us how the landscape influences your work?

A deep empathy for landscapes at risk from the impact of coal-mining and global warming informs my work. My work often uses stitched text to deliver messages about the importance of caring about the local environment. I photograph the work in the landscape to explore the relationship between land and weaving.

Some locations informing the work are the Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve, Wollar, The Drip, Bylong Valley and Ferntree Gully.

I make work in Wiradjuri Country; I walk on traditional land. I hope the way I work is respectful. I try to be. I try to consider all aspects of a landscape by: how it smells, tastes, feels, sounds, how the light is filtered through the trees. The landscape is geological, cultural, historical and it is also a feeling. The landscape is not passive, it is full of things that watch me work and it is also a collaborator, helping me to shape the work.

And as your Art of the Threatened Species focus, what draws you to the Regent Honeyeater? 

In some way, it didn’t matter which species I was paired with to develop artwork about as they all face similar threats from the impact of climate change, habitat loss, and things like the introduction of predators.

I have been looking for the Regent Honeyeater since moving back to Mudgee, my hometown, in 2016. The Regent Honeyeater was known historically to visit a remnant of woodland called the Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve, near Wollar, not far from Mudgee and an image of it sits on signage in the reserve. The area backs onto one of the open-cut coal mines, Wilpinjong. It is a place where my Grandfather used to live. I have spent a lot of time in the Munghorn, listening and looking, simply being there. My artwork over this time has become embedded into the environment, weaving material and ideas together.

My interest is probably not so much about the physical and behavioural characteristics of the bird, but about the variables, the entanglements within a real and political environment. At the moment, I am in a state of suspension not knowing if the Regent Honeyeater will return to the Capertee Valley (one of the last breeding habitats) this year because of the drought.

Recently, six birds were sighted in the Hunter’s Botanical Gardens near Newcastle, and one bird in Brisbane. Speculation is that the drought is forcing the birds out of the woodlands to the coast for food. Maybe I will never see the Regent Honeyeater in the wild. There is a breeding program for the bird at Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney.

My hopes for the future of the project is that it generates empathy not only for the species that are threatened, but for all species. We don’t know what the impact of the loss of the Regent Honeyeater will be. It may be that species of trees disappear as the Regent Honeyeater is an important nomadic pollinator. I hope by creating visibility, the project highlights just how fragile the ecological net is.

RHE fabric Capertee Valley.jpeg

You are very busy at the moment, with lots of travel and residencies. Can you tell us a bit about your current creative projects? 

I have just returned from the Arts Territory Exchange Residency in Italy. ATE is a global network of artists responding to their local territories, beginning with a simple correspondence program with another paired artist. My collaborator in the project is Norwegian artist, Beatrice Lopez and we have been developing work for a year via digital and postal means before meeting physically in the residency. It was great to meet Beatrice and work on some ideas we had about performances designed for two people in the Italian landscape.

I have been selected for Cementa Contemporary Arts Festival to be held in Kandos in November 2019, along with collaborators Jo Roberts and Jason Richardson from Griffith. We are developing a project called ‘Medium - A Collaborative Space’.The idea is to develop a space to make, listen and re-imagine connections with others. We will meet up in Kandos in January to stitch ideas together for the Festival later in the year.

I am also making work for the Art of the Threatened Species residency, curated by Dr Greg Pritchard. Twelve artists have been selected to make work about ten threatened species. It is a collaboration between the Office of Environment & Heritage, Create NSW and Orana Arts as part of the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program. The work will form part of a group exhibition to be shown in 2019 at the Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo. Other contributing artists are: Nicola Mason, Cathy Franzi, Amanda Stuart, Anna Glynn, Bec Selleck, Bridget Nicholson, Vicki Luke, Tullulah Cunningham, Alison Clouston, Peter Boyd, Peter Dalmazzo.

I have just started developing more work in an on-going collaboration with artist and writer Julie Briggs, who is located in Narrandera. We will be making work about the landscape in response to experiencing a performance held at Artlands Bendigo recently.

 You have attended Artlands and Artstate conferences, both in 2018 and in past years — what benefit are these events to a regional artist wanting to engage with the sector? 

I can’t stress enough the benefits of the regional conferences to artists. As a regional artist you need to go and find the people who will feed and support your practice and to whom you don’t have to continuously explain yourself. This is especially the case if you are working in a contemporary and conceptual way. The conferences provide a context for making work regionally and also provide connections regionally and internationally.

Artlands Dubbo 2016 activated my art practice in a whole different direction. I heard theatre director, Wesley Enoch speak about making five new connections with people when you walk out the door, which I literally did. One of those connections was with Dr Greg Pritchard, who has acted as an informal mentor for me ever since.

I have just returned from Artlands Bendigo 2018, where I am still processing a range of inputs. One of the key messages for me was thinking about ways small communities can themselves become cultural producers for a range of reasons — creative and social reasons — not just economic.

The conferences also have attached exhibitions and festival programs which are a great way to see what everyone is producing, to see the context in which you make work. I recommend any artist to check out various options to get themselves to a conference via grants, presenting, volunteering or gatecrashing!

Find more of Kelly’s process, artwork and travels via @kellyleonardweaving on Instagram. Read more about Art of the Threatened Species on our project page.

Art of the Threatened Species: call for materials

Art of the Threatened Species artist Kelly Leonard is calling for environmental/political t-shirts to be donated for artwork being developed about the endangered Regent Honeyeater bird. We are sure that a quick look in your local opportunity shop would be much appreciated; here is Kelly’s request:

Dear artists/activists,

Please consider sending me your worn yellow, black or white slogan t-shirts to be recycled into artwork. In return, you will receive unique art postcard updates from me and satisfaction from participating in artwork about this elusive, nomadic and critically endangered bird.

The project, curated by Dr Greg Pritchard, is part of a group exhibition about highlighting our endangered species. It is a collaboration between the Office of Environment & Heritage, Create NSW and Orana Arts as part of the NSW government’s Saving Our Species program. The exhibition will be shown in 2019 at the Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo. Other contributing artists are: Nicola Mason, Cathy Franzi, Amanda Stuart, Anna Glynn, Bec Selleck, Bridget Nicholson, Vicki Luke, Tullulah Cunningham, Alison Clouston, Peter Boyd, Peter Dalmazzo.

Please email me for postage or drop-off details: kellyleonard@me.com

In gratitude,

Kelly Leonard

Kelly Leonard t-shirt.jpg

Pictured: a t-shirt delivery for Kelly Leonard, courtesy of fellow Art of the Threatened Species artist Alison Clouston.


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.

Danielle Headshot.png

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. 

Special Event: A Little Piece of Heaven

A Little Piece of Heaven is the story of Auntie Ruth and Uncle Dick Carney, elders of the Narromine community. The couple tell their story in their own words, delivering a truly extraordinary untold tale of Aboriginal life in country NSW through the twentieth century.

From humble beginnings on a campsite near Warren, the story moves through the western shearing sheds and the dances where Dick faces rejection and finds acceptance, to Narromine, where the shearer finds a home, a community, and enduring love. In 55 years of marriage, Dick and Ruth Carney have been through loss and triumph, learned and grown together, and built a life that is a testament to their endurance, generosity, and love. 

Two shows only:

Friday 27 July
8:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Narromine United Services and Memorial Club
Narromine
Tickets here.

Sunday 29 July
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Black Box Theatre
Western Plains Cultural Centre
Dubbo
Tickets here.

This performance is presented with support from Create NSW and the Western Plains Cultural Centre.

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 7.29.57 pm.png

Join our team!

Position available: Cultural Projects Officer

Are you passionate about Indigenous arts? Do you want to contribute to and support regional creative communities? Orana Arts is seeking applications for a part-time (21 hours a week) Cultural Projects Officer to assist the ATSIA Programs Manager in delivering Aboriginal arts programs across the Orana region.

Position Description
You will be assisting with wide-ranging activities including contributing to ATSIA programs plans and strategies; community liaison and consultation; project support and development; managing creative performances and exhibitions; communications and marketing; and facilitating workshops across various locations.

The Cultural Projects Officer will be required to:

  • assist in the development of partnerships, opportunities, programs and projects with creatives, organisations and community groups to enhance creative skills, practice and knowledge
  • assist in facilitating arts workshops across the Orana region
  • develop databases for community access
  • assist in ATSIA programs communications

Skills and Experience
The successful candidate will:

  • be of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage
  • have a keen interest in regional Aboriginal Arts and culture
  • have a demonstrated capacity to contribute to the development and implementation of an Aboriginal Arts and Culture projects and team
  • hold an Employee Working with Children Check (mandatory)
  • be prepared to undertake an Australian Criminal History Check (mandatory)
  • hold a current NSW Driver’s Licence (mandatory) and be willing to travel
  • be motivated and reliable

Please submit your application, including a cover letter and resumé, by 5pm, Monday 16 July 2018. To speak with someone about this exciting opportunity, please contact:

Paris Norton
ASTIA Programs Manager
0409 245 020
aado@oranaarts.com

Please note: you must be an Australian or New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident to apply for this position. This role as been funded by Create NSW from the Creative Koori initiative and is a six month contract position.

Students creating their own stamp designs at a recent Carved Up workshop in Trangie. 

Students creating their own stamp designs at a recent Carved Up workshop in Trangie. 

Cementa: Workshop Roadshow

This week Cementa Inc. launches the Workshop Roadshow initiative with three workshops by new media artist Michael Petchkovsky.  The workshops will engage distance education students in Dubbo and primary and high school students in Wellington with how to make art out of discarded technologies. Michael uses redundant technologies such as old video cameras, oscilloscopes and tv monitors to create unusual sound and visual patterns that are then made into video and audio artworks.  The students will be learning about the history of this artform and then trying their hands at making their own audio video artworks.

Workshop Roadshow was conceived by Cementa Creative Director Alex Wisser as a way of giving youth in regional NSW a taste of contemporary art that they normally would not have access to.  The program will deliver 20 contemporary art workshops to schools and youth organisations across regional NSW.

Alex is excited to finally begin the program: 'Having moved into the regions five years ago, one of the things I noticed was how difficult it was for regional schools to access the art culture that is sometimes taken for granted in the cities. Some amazing things are happening artistically in Australia, and it’s just not fair that regional kids often miss out because it’s difficult to get that art into the smaller towns and schools. It occurred to me that we at Cementa bring up to 30 artists a year into the regions to make work in preparation for the festival and this might be a resource we can tap into to make contemporary art more accessible in the regions. It’s great to see the idea finally coming to life.'

Workshop Roadshow is generously funded by Dlux Media Arts and Sydney Mechanics School of Art and is supported by Orana Arts.

For more information contact Alex Wisser: 0413 555 860 awisser@cementa.com.au

hacktothefuture-236-2.jpg

Meet the New Orana Arts Board

Orana Arts is pleased to announce a new board structure and the election of a new executive. As part of our strategic plan, Orana Arts has been working towards a new structure which will maximise skills and allow us to host cultural forums in communities across our region, so that everyone gets a say in arts and culture in the Orana Region. 

Chairperson
Anne-Louise Capel

Anne-Louise has a Bachelor of Business and volunteers for community groups including the Coolah District Development Group. She has an agricultural background and is a Warrumbungle Shire Council Councillor. In her second term as Chairperson, Anne-Louise continues to value preserving and enhancing a strong sense of community and communication across the region, as well as working collaboratively to implement the Orana Arts Strategic Plan in a timely and fiscally responsible manner.

Deputy Chairperson
Virginia Handmer

Virginia has extensive local government and community services experience, having worked across art forms and in youth engagement for many years. She is an artist and curator at Number 47 Gallery in Rylstone and has a strong track record of volunteering for community cultural events. Virginia lends her expertise to cultural committees, including the Rylstone Sculptures Inc, Mudgee Readers’ Festival and the MWRC Cultural Development Committee. 

Secretary
Danielle Littlewood

Danielle is the Marketing and Events Manager for Zest Events. She brings a range of experience working in community engagement, event planning and project management to the Orana Arts board. Danielle has a sound track record in client and event management, customer service, stakeholder facilitation and community empowerment obtained through her previous roles as Regional Landcare Facilitator for Central Western NSW, Environmental Consultant with GHD Pty Ltd, and Catchment Officer with the Lachlan CMA. Danielle has an eye for detail, an understanding of community engagement and a strong sustainability ethos.

Treasurer
Jessica Moore

Jessica has had a significant career in the arts for close to 20 years, including working in Council Cultural and Public Arts Development units, regional galleries, TAFE and the commercial arts sector. Currently employed as the Collections Officer at the Western Plains Cultural Centre, she has also previously been a committee member of the Dubbo and Districts Australian and Decorative Arts Society and a founding member of the Dream Festival. She remains an active and committed contributor to a number of ongoing cultural projects and initiatives in the Orana region.

The Orana Arts Executive wishes to thank the outgoing board members for their services. The new board looks forward to supporting the exciting strategic plans for the organisation, including cultural forums across communities in the Orana Region. 

For any questions about the Orana Arts board or constitution, please contact Alicia Leggett: rado@oranaarts.com

Orana Arts swirl.png