Meet Rosie Dennis. An experienced performer, writer and arts curator, this Pottsville-raised industry pro has moved back north after a long Sydney stint to take the reins of Bleached* Arts, both as CEO and Artistic Director of our beloved Bleach* The Gold Coast Festival.
Like many long careers in the arts, Rosie’s has traversed a decent amount of territory.
“I’ve done a LOT of things,” she says when sit down and take a retrospective look at her work history.
“After moving to Sydney to study I directed a couple of shows independently at different theatres down there and I kind of toured overseas for six or seven years with my own work I wrote and performed, then I had our first child and was looking to bed down.
“I then got a job as a curator at an arts centre in western Sydney, but I’ve always written and directed on the side. I’ve directed and curated in artist-run spaces all my career, and really loved it. I’ve never sat in one space of just being an artist, I’ve also worn a curator hat so a job as a Festival Director is really terrific for me.”
Rosie had been planning to move back up here a while ago, but got a job at Urban Theatre Projects in Sydney and ended up staying down there for another six years. The timing ended up working out perfectly for her to take over the Bleached* Arts position when it was vacated by Louise Bezzina, creator of the Bleach* Festival, who is now the Artistic Director of Brisbane Festival.
“It’s very different up here,” Rosie muses. “If you grew up in a small town or a village or a regional place, a city is great to expand your world but there’s always the pull to come back home. I think if you grew up along the coast particularly, you’re always drawn to come back.”
She laughs as she muses on her first month or so in the job.
“I was meeting people and realised I went to school with that person’s son, or knew that cousin or found out my cousin was the PA to a board member I was meeting! It was actually really nice and I think made the transition much easier. I don’t feel necessarily like a stranger partly because I’ve never lost a connection with that border I’ve been coming back to my whole life.”
Rosie’s return to the Gold Coast sees her as one of the City’s select few in a senior creative lead role. And not just the creative role of Artistic Director, but also CEO. It’s a great dual role to be in, she says.
“I always give a great credit to boards of arts organisations, when the CEO is also the Artistic Director, because it means the organisation is artist-led, that it values risk and innovation that isn’t always driving to an economic return and that’s really exciting. I’m not saying there’s no financial responsibility, because also you’re the CEO, but it is exciting because there’s not many art organisations that do that, and I think it’s something to champion. I think we can all be a bit too risk averse.”
Rosie is totally on board when it comes to the importance of supporting the arts to create an internationally recognised city, and helping the Gold Coast to become a cultural destination. By creating just three main hubs of activities during the 2020 festival, she hopes to keep the critical connection to place that forms the cornerstone of Bleach*, while also making it less of a spread to attend.
“We’re kicking off with a residency lab on Chevron Island [one of the hubs] in November, for two weeks. So I’m very much looking to have “place” start to lead the work that artists are making. They spend time in a place for a blue sky residency – not to feel like they’ve got to deliver a work in that time – just to come and stop for a while, meet people. In several jobs I ‘ve done that, it’s like taking a piece of blank paper and inviting artists to come in and to listen and think.”
As for the future?
“I’m really hoping to be able to expand what we do in the organisation… yes we curate and produce a festival and that happens two weeks a year, but outside of that two weeks we’ve got new work here, a one night party over there, a full program of events throughout the year. I want to claim our space as the leading independent arts organisation.”
Bleach* The Gold Coast Festival runs from 12 to 23 August 2020 on the Gold Coast. Visit bleachfestival.com.au to keep up with event releases as they’re revealed.
IMAGE (c) Josh Morris