SWELL anniversary for sculpture festival

Currumbin’s golden sands will again be transformed into a dazzling barefoot gallery, showcasing public art in the form of sculpture from 8 to 17 September. It’s SWELL Sculpture Festival. It’s free, it’s family-friendly and this year, it turns fifteen.

SWELL comprises works spanning the sculptural spectrum with 50 artists this year exhibiting their work right in the heart of Gold Coast’s stunning coastline. SWELL’s co-directors Natasha Edwards and Ruth Della chat to Samantha Morris about the event’s history and what the 15-year milestone means.

It’s a feeling you get, deep in your core, when you are passionate about something, you make it happen.   SWELL started purely from the love of art.”

“We were craving a fulfilling arts and cultural lifestyle,” Natasha said, about the event’s formative years.” We wanted to tell the stories that live on in our artists’ minds and we wanted to have an exhibition of large scale sculpture.”

“We were adamant that SWELL would fuse art and people together, raising the profile of the artist,” Natasha said.

In those early days, Natasha worked with Kylie Mitchell-Smith to bring the event to fruition. Ruth Della on the other hand was cultivating a small bespoke graphic design and phtography business.

“With the first year of SWELL proving to a brilliant success, Tash and Kylie soon realised that to build the SWELL vision further, a team was needed. Along with an amazing group of locals, I sat on the committee for four years and assisted in a number of areas,” Ruth explained.

“Natasha and I have known each other for a good number of years, originally meeting through our husbands. Our babies were growing up together and we’d meet for regular catch ups, always with creative ideas and entrepreneurial aspirations at the forefront of our conversations.”

It was until 2007 that Ruth was presented with an opportunity to take on a directors’ role.

“I jumped at the chance,” she said, admitting it was all new territory for her.

“It was exciting, challenging and a little frightening all at the same time. Over the nine years, I have learnt a great deal working with Tash and our professional partnership has evolved to cultivate a rich cultural experience for the Gold Coast. I am forever grateful.”

So, fast forward ten years to 2017 and you can know Natasha Edwards and Ruth Della have some serious knowledge about SWELL’s place in Gold Coast’s cultural society. And it seems first and foremost, SWELL is about accessibility.

“SWELL is a grass roots, Currumbin-born event that has grown into a world class sculpture exhibition,” Ruth told Blank Gold Coast. “Its unique ability to reflect the stories of our past and present through art is extraordinary as well as the way the artists make us contemplate our future. Locals feel a genuine connection to SWELL.”

Natasha thinks the event’s strength lies in its temporary approach to public art.

“While its presence is short-lived, it leaves a lasting impression through the reverberations of the artists’ voice and the echoes of memories and shared conversations,” she said.

And the duo are constantly pushing boundaries, with new and enriching experiences added to the program each year. 2017 is a case in point. Life drawing amongst the sculptures, twilight walks, a life sculpting masterclass and kids’ sculpture classes. Plus there’s live, local, original music and street food.

“We’re talking about experiences that are transformative, contemplative, sensorial, experiential and experimental all with a soundtrack to boot,” Ruth said about the ever-changing program of events.

“As SWELL evolves and as its capacity as an arts organisation develops, our big hairy audacious goals are becoming reality and we can dare to dream,” she said.

“We’re no longer exclusively sculpture based. We’re looking at ways to bring sculpture, projection, music and performance together to merge art disciplines.”

That said, there’s no question that for SWELL, the art is front and centre. I mean, how can it not be when the exhibition is so public, weaving its way along the foreshore and Currumbin Beach. It’s in your face, in a subtle, whimsical kind of way.

“There are many factors that come into play when selecting the works,” Natasha explained, “curators are looking at originality, skills and craftsmanship, conceptual responses to issues and the ability to safely deliver and install the sculpture on site.”

“Every year we present artists’ works where by sculptures are created from the wonders of nature and reimagined to inspire and captivate us.”

And of course, this year is no exception.

SWELL takes on a life of its own as the artists’ voice cuts through each year with 50 new sculptures to provoke one’s thought and enjoyment,” Ruth said of the 2017 SWELL Sculpture Festival.

“We’ll be launching new programs especially targeted at participating and finding the artist within, we’ll uncover new musicians, and we’ll forge a thousand new memories as people come down to visit during the ten days.

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SWELL Sculpture Festival runs 8 – 17 September, right on the beach at Currumbin. Details at swellsculpture.com.au.


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