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Mixing the public palette

By Carolyn Rance

An arts manager builds creative connections around every corner, writes Carolyn Rance.

The arts are brightening city life and building cultural understanding on Sydney's north shore. The City of Willoughby - which includes the increasingly high-density suburb of Chatswood - operates three exhibition spaces: in the Chatswood entertainment and cultural precinct known as the Concourse; in the foyer of the civic offices; and in a restored, heritage-listed incinerator designed by Walter Burley Griffin, which is in parklands not far from Sailors Bay.

"Art encourages people to connect with each other and look at what is special about living here," says the council's arts and cultural manager, Jacky Talbot.

"It's about building identity and understanding in an area where many people come from different cultures."

Foyer exhibitions have included a display by year 12 students, while the Concourse has hosted exhibitions by Korean, Russian and Chinese artists as well as the Monday Art Group, whose members live with mental health issues.

Talbot co-ordinates an annual open studio weekend, which allows artists of all levels to display their art in studios, garages, front gardens and carports. Amateurs and community groups can show their work without the cost of hiring a venue, while professionals demonstrate techniques and give talks.

Talbot's work has taken her from Melbourne to Canberra to Sydney, where she's been for 10 years.

In Melbourne, she discovered her own inner artist while working at the Carringbush library for the City of Yarra in the 1980s in a position that combined library duties with responsibility for encouraging community arts.

"This was a time when community art was receiving a lot of state and federal funding," she says. "The library was built to provide a range of cultural resources. It had a darkroom, an AV room, a theatre and meeting rooms.

"I worked on all sorts of projects: theatre with elderly people, theatre with youth, mural painting, photography, festivals and many other things. When murals needed to be finished, I picked up a paintbrush and that unleashed my latent creativity."

She enrolled for fine arts courses, first at Box Hill TAFE and then at RMIT, where she studied painting and printmaking.

She had jobs on the Victorian government's tram art and public arts programs before a job offer from the ACT government took her to Canberra, where she established a public art program.

Talbot says murals, painting and sculptures in the built environment and urban parks help introduce the arts to people who might never visit a gallery.

"We are all familiar with sculptures of the explorer or important man on a plinth. Now works tend to be less figurative, but they give a focus to places or tell a story, and they make art more accessible."


Published: 08 December 2012

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