ICYMI: The week’s top news in the arts

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Our most-read stories this week were:

Quick news

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will re-open its doors to the public on Thursday 11 February next year following its $40 million redevelopment, which has been five years in the making. The project has reimagined the organisation’s Federation Square building, including an overhaul of its public exhibition space. Learn more about ACMI’s renewal by visiting the ACMI website.


Read: ACMI renews digital promise in virtual launch

Singer, dancer and actor Martha Berhane has been announced as the winner of the inaugural Artists of Colour Initiative.

Berhane is a proud Canadian-born Eritrean singer, dancer and actor who is passionate about the performing arts and immersing herself into various styles of art. Her love for theatre came from playing many roles across different musicals in school and her dancing came from growing up watching many dance movies.

‘Wow! I’m honestly still so speechless and struggling to put into words how I feel right now. My heart is full of gratitude and immense joy, and it is truly an honour to be chosen as the AOC Initiative winner by a panel of incredible people. It has been a pleasure being a part of something so special alongside a beautiful community of POC artists. Thank you so much to everyone who supported me. Imma try not to cry again,’ said Berhane.

Rounding out the 2020 competition is runner up Grace Driscoll making Jarrod Draper, Lauren Cheok, Milo Hartill-Batsietswe and Raphael Wong the four finalists.

The AOC Initiative GoFundMe campaign has raised over $30,000 and will remain open until 11:59pm AEDT Tuesday 15 December. From there, Berhane will receive 50% of all donations, Driscoll will receive 20% of all donations and Draper, Cheok, Hartill-Batsietswe and Wong will each receive 7.5% of all donations.

The AOC Initiative is a scholarship competition designed to provide financial assistance and industry support to six exceptionally talented theatre performers based in Australia that identify as Bla(c)k, Indigenous or as People of Colour. The Initiative was born from the recognition of underrepresentation of these communities in the Australian theatre industry. The aim of the scholarship is to ensure greater participation within the field of musical theatre amongst these marginalised communities.

The AOC Initiative was created by People of Colour for People of Colour fighting for change in the Australian musical theatre industry.


The City of Sydney, under its tenancy portal Brand X, is calling for artists to apply for affordable space to live and work in the inner city (Darlinghurst and Waterloo) Applications close 14 December. The tenancy is for 18 months from early April 2021. Rent is set at $200 per week excluding outgoings/utilities. Learn more and apply.

In celebration of its current exhibition, Looking Glass: Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce, TarraWarra Museum of Art will hold a special free online event on Sunday 20 December from 4-5pm. Hear from exhibition curator Hetti Perkins and artists Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce in a live panel discussion moderated by Museum Director, Victoria Lynn, followed by a dance performance by Wiradjuri woman Ella Havelka, an Australian Ballet and Bangarra alumni (pictured top).  

The Ethics Centre has launched its first podcast series, Little Bad Thing, exploring the choices people wish they could undo and dissecting the confusion and pressure of making decisions in hard moments. From art cheats, bad breaker-upperers and selfish house guests, to vigilante warriors and accidentally starting riots, Little Bad Thing is described as ‘a gritty, funny and intimate exploration of the little decisions that keep us up at night’.

Eleanor Gordon-Smith hosts the eight-episode series. Currently at Princeton University, her work has appeared on This American Life and NPR. Season One started on 8 December, with new 20-minute episodes released weekly on Apple and Spotify.


Quick Festival news

Sydney Writers’ Festival will present four major events at Carriageworks under the banner, Something to Talk About. Guests include Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart live from New York; festival favourites Jennifer Byrne, Michael Mohammed Ahmad and Benjamin Law riffing on their favourite books of 2020; Briggs in a family event talking about his bestselling Our Home, Our Heartbeat with Archie Roach and a session predicting the year ahead with Norman Swan, Gayle Kennedy, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Kate McClymont. Whack it in the diary: 16-17 January.

The I Dance Festival is a mini film festival of dance films, showcasing excellence in dance films curated and created by artists with disability across the ACT, Australia and the world. Hosted by Hanna Cormick, Matt Shilcock and Liz Lea for the 2020 International Day of People with Disability, I Dance Festival has Auslan Interpretation, Captions and Audio Description. Running 18 – 21 December., this is an online event with the films available to be seen for 72 hours, however tickets must be booked.

Iconic Australian rock band Midnight Oil will close two of the four nights of WOMADelaide’s new sunset concert series in King Rodney Park, Adelaide. Midnight Oil, who performed at WOMADelaide 1997 and have not played in Adelaide since 2017. Tickets are limited.

Yellamundie Festival announces program

Moogahlin Performing Arts, together with Sydney Festival and Carriageworks, will present six ground-breaking works from eight First Peoples storytellers as part of the fifth biennial Yellamundie Festival, from 22-24 January 2021.

‘Yellamundie Festival is the only Festival of its kind in Australia – a launchpad for new work and pioneering First People’s creatives,’ said Lily Shearer. 

The program includes two plays, Capricorn, by Aidan Rowlingson, exploring culture, sexuality, grief and personal growth through the lens of a young couple; and The Lookout, by Dalara Williams. Two choreographed performances, Waterholes by Shana O’Brien; and Seventh Season Dreaming by Sermsah Bin Saad, will also be presented.

This year’s Festival also introduces two composition showings, The First Shot, by Troy Russell, and Gumbirrangarroo Dalanngarroo by Brad Steadman, Brad Hardy, and Mark Ross, a multi-disciplinary work combining traditional language, music, and animation to tell stories of from the land and the river.

Visit Sydney Festival for details.

Mona Foma announces program

Mona Foma this week announced the program for its 13th festival, going statewide for 2021 with a special, Tassie-flavoured line up. Highlights include:

LAUNCESTON: Chairway to Heaven + Acoustic Life of Boatsheds + Aqua Luma + Mofo Sessions at Royal Park + ‘Til It’s Gone

HOBART: Judith’s Return + The Masque of the Red Death + Forest Gin Walk + Mofo Sessions at Mona + Let Me Dry Your Eyes + Rueremus

BOTH CITIES: Big hART’s Zinc + After Erika Eiffel + Relay + Listen Deeply + Happy Days + The Ubus

With over 352 artists, 90% of them drawn from Tasmania, it’s a year to celebrate the local and invite mainland friends to join in.


Quick gallery news

Artbank celebrates a milestone anniversary with the exhibition, 20/20: Shared Visions, 40 years of Contemporary Australian Art, showing through March 2021 in their Sydney headquaters.

‘Since 1980, Artbank has supported over 4,000 Australian artists through the acquisition of their work and has built one of the most significant and accessible collections of contemporary Australian art,’ said Minister for the Arts Paul Fletcher.

To mark Artbank’s 40th anniversary, the organisation has also commissioned its very first augmented reality (AR) artwork by  Thom Roberts in collaboration with Studio.

Tickets to the NGV Triennial (19 December 2020 – 18 April 2021) became available this week, as did tickets to the National Gallery of Australia’s major exhibition, Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London (5 March – 14 June 2021).

Gippsland Art Gallery has announced its first ever dedicated philanthropic Foundation, to assist with the acquisition of major artworks and projects that support the growth and promotion of the Gallery. It will be managed by an independent Board of Directors. The gallery has recently reopened with the exhibition, Artist Proof: The Collective Spirit of Freestone Press, which celebrates ten years of Briagolong’s Freestone Press printmaking studio.

LU Simon Building construction hording with artwork by Bill Henson, for UPTOWN. Untitled 2000-01. Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries. Image supplied.

UPTOWN is a new outdoor art project that transforms Melbourne’s top end of Bourke Street into a 24/7 outdoor art gallery – an experience that combines art, architecture, and streetscape by matching 26 contemporary artists with vacant shops, restaurants, store windows, building exteriors and laneways. Curated by Fiona Scanlan and Robert Buckingham, it runs15 December – 28 February 2021.

Carrick Hill, the 1939 estate in the Adelaide foothills, re-opens after 17-months and a $3.3 million renovation. The house been closed since July 2019 for the work. The renovation has seen the attic (previously inaccessible to the public) stripped out to create a new 75sq metre permanent exhibition space, to be known as The Wall Gallery. The historic property is home to a large collection of drawings, sculptures, antiques and paintings.

Wangaratta Art Gallery and the East Gippsland Art Gallery, along with the Public Galleries Association of Victoria, will share in $140,000 as part of the latest announcement of the Victorian State Government’s Creative Recovery funds. Wangaratta Art Gallery will appoint a Public Program Officer and deliver a tailored program for people in the north east of Victoria affected by the bushfires. The funding will enable the gallery to commission an art therapist to assist in the development of a specialist program over an extended period to address the trauma of the bushfires and deliver longer term recovery. Meanwhile, East Gippsland Art Gallery will expand its highly successful Regenerate, RestART, Renew program, a bushfire recovery initiative for the region of East Gippsland. The projects are underway now.

Wemba Wemba and Wergaia woman, Kelly Koumalatsos is an award-winning Victorian Aboriginal artist with Greek heritage. She is renowned for her signature technique, uka ngalung wooleh (to paint with possum). She has a new exhibition in Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum, Gung | create, make, do, love, opening 12 December. Free with Museum entry, bookings essential

Tree Story is an exhibition that brings together creative practices from around the world to create a ‘forest’ of ideas relating to critical environmental and sustainability issues, with Indigenous knowledge at its core. Featuring 36 artists and projects, ranging from early 1970s environmental actions to the study of plant communications. Opening at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) from 6 February – 10 April 2021.


Poetry in Action receives much-needed support

The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund supports Poetry in Action (PIA) as it pivots to digitised performances and live streaming into Australian classrooms during COVID.

Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling said of PIA: ‘Its dedication and enthusiasm unlock the power of words and ensures that poetry is not a forgotten art.’

From its humble Sydney origins in 2006, Poetry in Action has grown into one of Australia’s premier touring theatre companies, performing to more than 85,000 students across the country each year.

By providing financial support that contributes to wages, the Copyright Agency has allowed many organisations, like Poetry in Action, to continue to create and produce the necessary work that contributes to the growth of the creative industry.

Six-week creative writing workshops at new school

Enrolments are now open at Mirrabooka Writers – a new online writing school that offers live workshopping sessions. Emerging and developing writers have the opportunity to develop their work over six-week terms, with tutors like Vogel-winning novelist Christine Piper, and Overland poetry editor, Toby Fitch. The program for Term 1 starts in mid-January 2021. It includes courses for novelists, memoirists, children’s and YA writers, and poets, as well as a course on creative sustainability. Learn more.


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra will bring popular classical music to Melbourne’s backyards in a series of free concerts over one summer weekend in January. Concerts will be held in Wyndham Park (15 Jan); Bunjil Place, Narre Warren (16 Jan) and Broadmeadows Town Hall (17 Jan). The MSO has also announced a new series of digital concerts, MSO Live, in response to the popularity of streamed events during the long Melbourne lockdown and featuring live and on-demand HD performances from the MSO and the world’s finest.

Opera Australia this week confirmed its popular outdoor event, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour will return in March 2021 (26 March – 25 April 2021) with Verdi’s hugely popular La Traviata, after being shut down earlier this year due to COVID-19, just two weeks out from opening night. The Company also announced the extension of their long-standing partnerships with Dr Haruhisa Handa’s International Foundation of Arts and Culture and Destination NSW,  through to 2023. And in Sydney Opera House, Opera Australia are back performing live with The Merry Widow, scheduled to run over January 5-16, 2021.

Academics from Monash University’s music school have turned COVID-19 physical restrictions into the impetus for a new trans-national remote recording project. Three researchers from the School have received more than $18,000 from the Australia Council for the Arts to record 18 new music compositions using an innovative software-based tracking approach.

Monash representatives will join colleagues in Perth in the new music ensemble Decibel, for multi-track recording sessions coordinated in real-time across the internet. Launched this year, the Hub allows audio-visual streamings from locations across the world, globalising students’ learning experience and enabling both staff and students to participate in the exchange of knowledge and creativity. 

National Opera is set to premiere its upcoming 2021 season with La Clemenza di Tito  in April 2021. Led by newly appointed Artistic Director Peter Coleman-Wright AO, and featuring an all-Australian cast, La Clemenza di Tito marks the company’s first production in the post-COVID landscape as it continues to celebrate and support the local opera artists of the future. Set to premiere in Canberra at Llewellyn Hall at ANU’s School of Music on 10 April 2021. La Clemenza di Tito will be followed by the premiere of La Rodine in October 2021.

The City of Ballarat’s popular Summer Sundays concert series is back in 2021, over three weekends in January (10, 17 & 24 January) and featuring Clare Bowditch, Ella Hooper and Ross Wilson across venues Sovereign Hill, Kryal Castle and the Ballarat Wildlife Park. Each Summer Sundays concert will also be live streamed via the @summersundaysballarat Facebook page.   

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra celebrates the 20th anniversary of its annual Noël! Noël! concerts with the acclaimed Brandenburg Choir. The concerts will be performed at City Recital Hall from 12 – 17 December, and premiere online on the digital platform Brandenburg One on 19 December. Opera set designer Michael Scott-Mitchell has produced a series of moving and still digital images that will be displayed on a stage-wide LED screen to accompany the live concert.

Tickets for Bell Shakespeare’s upcoming production, One Man In His Time: John Bell and Shakespeare are now on sale. Referencing the ‘all the world’s a stage’ speech from As You Like It , this solo show puts John Bell’s mastery of Shakespeare’s language and character work on full display. Performances will be presented next year at the Sydney Opera House (11-14 March) and Canberra Theatre Centre (15 April) with a Melebourne season also rumoured to be in the works. 

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