Artlands Artlands Victoria | Bendigo 2018


Hosted in the beautiful and vibrant regional city of Bendigo, Artlands Victoria was attend by arts workers, organisations and artists from each and every state – and the welcome was warm from locals, Regional Arts Victoria, and the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional land owners alike.

The entire framework for Artlands Victoria was developed from the nine goals outlined in the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DDWCAC) Country Plan 2014-2034, and following a moving Welcome to Country ceremony in Rosalind Park, the opening keynote was led by the DDWCAC Chairperson, Trent Nelson. This leadership from the Dja Dja Wurrung people set the tone of the conference perfectly, and we are so grateful for their facilitation of conversation around practice on country.

From the welcoming ceremony to the closing address (each from the newly developed and stunning Ullumbra Theatre), delegates were presented with an immaculately curated program, neatly split across four thematic days – On Country, Creative Tonic, Industry Impact, New Thinking – that managed to keep hundreds of people engaged from 9am to late. The Artlands Club was a feature event programmed by Castlemaine-based artist Sam Thomas and showcased the serious amount of home-grown local talent in central Victoria. The Friday program also held a breakout program presented in partnership with Castlemaine State Festival, The Mill and Lot 19.

The international contribution to Artland’s programming, including from Amanda Smethurst and Jenny Rutter from Creative People and Places(CPP, UK), and Desna Whaanga-Schollum (DWS Creative Ltd & Artspace, NZ)) introduced us to regional arts experience beyond our own, including art as social change, and the articulation of cultural identity. The lessons that were learned through this sharing, though not new, have enriched our process here – and how the arts can contribute not only to community involvement, but to real, sustainable transformation.

But what would Artlands be without Art?! Delegates knew this was a special conference when presented with their welcome gift – a hand knitted scarf borne of Crafting the Merch, an Artlands Victoria initiative that saw individuals from around the country creating yellow-heavy scarves for attendees. As well as being beautiful, these scarves created an instant camaraderie between delegates, and were the perfect conversation-starter – often makers tracking down just who was wearing their handiwork!

Scarves donned, an exploration of Bendigo revealed just how in-depth the programming truly was. Placed in the Conservatory at Rosalind Park was the Cultural Pharmacy – a project supported by Vic Health and created by visual artist and set designer Darryl Cordell in collaboration with Eliza-Jane Gilchrist and Mark Penzak, from the Castlemaine based performance ensemble Such As They Are – that blew everyone way. A creative and humorous performance-based piece, encouraging individual participation, the Cultural Pharmacy provided a cultural tonic to whatever ailed you. Continuing your walk through Rosalind Park led you to the Band Stand feature project, the dynamic program showcasing bands from music festivals all over the state.

In the foyer of the Capital Theatre, another Artlands venue, many lucky delegates discovered the Artlands Vending Machine, stocked full of handmade treasures from the team at the artist collective, Foundry. Down Chancery Lane awaited the discovery of 50 yarn-bombed umbrellas, created by the Bendigo Yarn Bombers (with a further 50 in the library!). Wandering between the Capital Theatre and Ullumbra took you past Poppethead, in rehearsal for the Poppet performance by ACT Natimuk.


“It’s a real treat when everyone comes together,” Amanda Smethurst of CPP said, when opening her keynote. And she was right – the overwhelming feedback received points to an appreciation for coming together. Arts workers and artists from varying backgrounds, encouraged to mingle and network while attending keynotes, panels and workshops. Mary-Jane Warfield, Regional Arts Fund Manager, explained that “it’s a joy to be with colleagues” – and we think you would all agree!

This space for connection was allowed by the amazing programming, catering for conversation, sharing, and learning. The real magic of the subtly-scheduled networking, however, was for breaking down barriers between all delegates. Rural artists had opportunities to meet colleagues from the other side of Australia, board members had an opportunity to reunite, and friendly faces were put to names on paper.

A huge thank you must go to the incredible team behind this event – Ros Abercrombie, Ella Bucovaz, Joe Toohey, and all the Regional Arts Victoria staff on the ground (what a friendly bunch!). You have set the stage for future Artlands to come!

The closing of Artlands Victoria was from Regional Arts Australia, was led by John Oster in his last engagement as Executive Director, (and his tenth Artlands in twenty years!) and followed by a heartfelt address by RAA Chair, Simon Spain. He reminded us that “art connects us to ourselves and our communities,” and that “there’s a need now more than ever to harness the power of art for good. Shout about the good things art is doing!”

Artlands Victoria provides us with a platform to keep connecting, and to keep sharing the good things. Thank you to everyone who came and shared in the experience.

See you in 2020!

Want to see more? Check out the official Artlands image gallery.

Image: Diana Domonkos, Delegates and staff gather at Artlands, Bendigo