Heading down south, away from the hustle and bustle of Gold Coast life, the roads start winding along the Tweed River. Townships become reminiscent of country life and the natural landscape is more prominent even in the midst of the urban environment. There’s a real sense of resilience as well, as the community recovers from heavy rainfall and disaster events that flooded the region not that long ago. It’s within this context that a vibrant arts community is thriving, with painters, musicians, sculptors and artisans of all disciplines attaining national and international recognition for their work as they draw on the challenges the community has faced to inspire their work. The Murwillumbah Art Trail (MAT18), held 18-27 May 2018, recognises that work.
The MAT18 programme for 2018 includes pop-up galleries in vacant tenancies throughout town, cocktail parties and socialite gatherings, family picnics and progressive dinners, and delivers something for every kind of art lover. We spoke to Dev Lengjel, Creative Director of MAT18 about what else to expect this year.
What did the flood in 2017 mean for last year’s MAT?
Stress and resilience. Stress for MAT and artists as houses and studios were flooded just out from the event. But MAT didn’t stop as the artists didn’t stop. It was a touching event with people going out of their way to make MAT17 happening. Many stories were shared.
It was massive! All the artists, businesses and organisers were affected. Galleries, studios and businesses went under and organisers were really not sure whether the event would even be able to go ahead. But, our Murwillumbah resilience kicked in and six weeks later we pulled off an amazing event doubling the people and sales from the previous year. In the end it was something town really needed and embraced.
Can you expand on this year’s theme of ‘Moving On’ for us?
Moving On reflects the aftermath of the flood, the resilience of the community and the capacity for art to heal. It goes further than that, though.
Moving On can apply to everyone, in all stages of their lives, for better or for worse. We invite artists and performers to address the 2018 theme with the ingenuity and engagement that allowed our region to move on from the flood.
And while art has the capacity to reflect and put things into place, it’s also a lot of fun. Our sense of humour makes us survivors.
Can you tell us a little about the Canadian partnership this year, and what it means for the event?
Last year five MAT18 artists travelled to Quebec to be part of a long established arts festival. Now we have five Canadian artists visiting us as part of MAT18. We will also show a Canadian movie at the Regent Cinema along with locally produced shorts.
This is the beginning of an international component of the art trail that will tap into the flourishing Asian tourism market by collaborating with Asia Pacific countries.
What are some of the installations / events that you are most excited about people seeing this year?
The whole event is exciting off course. Visitors will be provided a map and at each spot on the map with be an art installation, a pop up gallery, a mural, or a performance. It has a ‘choose your own adventure’ appeal. The program runs for ten days and on each day visitors can participate in a free or ticketed event or workshop. One of our exhibitions is the curated ’Palette Show’ that exhibits artists and their palettes.
The galleries all have their openings on the Saturday night 19 May alongside a music festival in the Murwillumbah CBD. The streets will come alive with building projections and lights shows.
One of the signature events of MAT is the VIP Progressive Dinner and Gallery after hours event, that is an evening degustation tour of the MAT18 galleries with a select group of people indulging in a sumptuous menu from some of Murwillumbah’s finest chefs using our region’s top seasonal produce and selected wines, Stone and Wood beer and Husk Distillers, whilst enjoying featured artists’ talks.
We are very excited about the closing event the Ray White Rural Murwillumbah Saturday Arvo Picnic on the 27 May which will see a number of performers, food tents, activities for kids and a candle moving on ceremony.
We will also have adult and children’s workshops that can be booked through our website or Facebook page.
Why is this event important for the region?
The arts are seen as an economic driver that will increase visitation and overnight stays to the region. This is such an event. The collaboration of community groups, businesses and council is vitally important. We are all striving for the same goal, making our region viable through increased visitation.
Interview by Natalie O’Driscoll
Story by Glenn Tozer
IMAGE: River Leg Shake, by Annie Long