In 1996 I approached Desart Inc with a proposal to develop and manage a research project to collate information about remote community Aboriginal art centres with a view to stakeholders becoming more effective advocates for art centres. It followed a confronting year when Desart and ANKAAA and a number of art centres had been defunded in 1995 when decisions about arts & culture funding were devolved by ATSIC from Canberra to regional councils. We kept telling government and bureaucrats that art centres mattered and deserved to be funded – but it was hard for ATSIC Regional Councils to prioritise art centres over Toyotas. After working for Desart to successfully lobby on behalf of the entire sector and its peak bodies (funding was reinstated by the end of 1995) it became clear that nobody apart from those on the ground really knew much about art centres. Although we all agreed they were unique and indispensable we had trouble convincing others. It was time to get more strategic!
Pitching the project to Australia Council and ATSIC, we attracted support and funding and began designing a set of five separate questionnaires for: art centres; art centre staff; art centre governing bodies; the commercial sector and; the non-commercial stakeholders (public galleries etc).
Research & Data
Fieldwork was undertaken in 1997/98. Visits to the 39 art centres took on average three days and exhausted the art centre staff being asked 300+ detailed questions.
From the outset the commitment was to collect both quantitative and qualitative information – to tease out the complexity of the socio-cultural and economic roles art centres play and the significance of art centres to their owners. Also to track how they interacted with the two other key sectors – commercial.
Data collation took more than 18 months and five reports were produced. The first three Reports relating specifically to the operations and personnel of art centres were worked on and edited to create the three published Volumes.
Critical to the project’s completion and success were the following people: Geraldine Tyson (Desart EO), Jon Altman (mentor), Norm Wilson (ATSIC), Michael Lynch (Ozco), Frances Morphy (amazing editor), Mouli McKenzie (designer), and Christine Lennard (researcher and friend).
The Art & Craft Centre Story Volume I Report
A survey of thirty-nine Aboriginal community art and craft centres in remote Australia, undertaken by Desart Inc.
ATSIC, Canberra. 1999
The Art & Craft Centre Story Volume II Summary and Recommendations
A survey of thirty-nine Aboriginal community art and craft centres in remote Australia, undertaken by Desart Inc. ATSIC, (editor, with Frances Morphy) Canberra. 2000
Good Stories from Out Bush
Examples of best practice in Aboriginal community art and craft centres in remote Australia
The Art & Craft Centre Story Volume III. ATSIC, Canberra. 2000