Kolyang in 2022 – number three!

In August we held the third edition of the Kolyang Creative Hub, a trilogy of critical gatherings for independent mid-career artists and arts workers across Western Australia which began in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 lockdowns. We again took over the building and gorgeous grounds of the Subiaco Arts Centre, thanks to the ongoing support from the WA Government through DLGSC and the Arts and Culture Trust.

The initiative has established itself as an important part of the WA arts ecosystem, offering artists and industry leaders a supportive, open space for discussion, experimentation, practice-sharing and learning.

Grumble Boogie, image by Wendi Graham

Each iteration has been informed by key issues and themes facing the sector at that moment in time. In 2022 the focus shifted towards the seeding of ideas and making of work, offering time and space to nurture creative connections and collaboration between artists within the Hub.

One of the unique aspects of the Kolyang Creative Hub, is its existence free of pressure to deliver an outcome; artists are given the freedom to reflect, develop and make, rather than the pursuit of delivering a final product.

I think one of the really rich things about Kolyang is time, space and permission to be an artist and wear that artist hat firmly. And I have really appreciated the opportunity to do some research, step into that space of being an artist and thinking about my artistic practice

 

said Hub participant Alex Desebrock 

The Kolyang Class of 2022 – 36 independent artists and arts workers (being the combined cohort of the Creative Hub and Diversity Lab) were joined by almost 80 other artists and creatives to collaborate on projects and ideas during the three weeks. The Kolyang Creative Hub public program responded to what artists wanted to talk about; resulting in a series of long table discussions, workshops, panel conversations, and small group discussions providing space for collaboration and dialogue to happen. The events this year were well attended, more than 340 people participated in or attended 22 separate events.

Some of these sessions have been recorded and are available on our podcast channel here

Long Table discussion. Image by Wendi Graham

With the inaugural trilogy of events delivered, arts industry allies have recognised the value and essential purpose of having spaces like the Kolyang Creative Hub and Diversity Lab to come together, plan, and share perspectives.

It needs to continue to exist because it’s the only opportunity in WA right now, where we get to be in a peer-based learning, this peer-based learning, I think, is going to be the way of the future.”

 

shared Hub participant Jay Emmanuel

Image by Edwin Sitt

The Kolyang Diversity Lab took place prior to the Creative Hub, a week-long residency where a selected cohort of emerging artists are invited to unpack their project ideas with industry mentors and expand their practice, while they form connections and network with the wider arts community as through participation in the Creative Hub.

In 2022, the focus of the Lab shifted towards early-career disabled artists working in any genre or medium. Ten extraordinary artists formed this year’s cohort and took part under the eye of our Lead Mentor Caroline Bowditch, Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director of Arts Access Victoria, and Creative Lead of Arts Centre Melbourne’s Alter State Festival.

Caroline was supported by five mid-career ‘Ally Artists’ which continued the Lab’s commitment to connect cohort members with sector allies to build new connections, enable reverse mentoring and facilitate learning, understanding and change across our industry.

It was such a privilege to work with such fantastic artists who were so open to trying whatever was thrown at them. They made huge, and somewhat, unexpected discoveries throughout the week lead by each other. It was a pleasure to witness their growth throughout the lab.commented Caroline.  

Being able to bring in two artists, via Zoom, who were unable to attend in person was also great and really demonstrated what true access is and can be. The Ally Artists were also incredible. They supported the Lab artists with respect, artistry and patience. 

Caroline added, “The Kolyang Artist Lab feels like a such an important initiative, and I hope it continues to focus on including Disabled leaders and on the development of Deaf and Disabled emerging artists.”

On the first day of the Lab, Caroline offered a presentation about her own journey as a disabled artist and industry leader. You can listen to her presentation here 

Image by Edwin Sitt

Kolyang has made a difference to me because it’s allowed me to be confident in asking for the things I need. It’s really helped me to be confident asking questions before I do something, because if I ask questions about what I’m doing, I can find the best way for myself to participate.

 

shared Lab alumni Grace King, speaking about her experience with the Kolyang Diversity Lab. 

As a conclusion to the Lab, The Blue Room Theatre hosted a panel discussion in partnership with Performing Lines WA titled Accessibility as Dramaturgy. Facilitated by our senior producer, Jeremy Smith and Caroline Bowditch, panellists included Georgi Ivers, plus contributions from Daisy Sanders and Bruno Booth (both members of the Kolyang Creative Hub Artist Advisory group).

You can listen to the discussion here or download a transcript here

Alongside the Kolyang Creative Hub, Theatre Network Australia held a WA sector roundtable gathering with the theme “How to Be a Good Ancestor”. More than 40 guests in person and online were invited to discuss how we could empower our future generations of artists, audiences and participants, in response to a series of provocations.
Jeremy Smith’s response to the provocation surrounding access and inclusion garnered a powerful response across the sector, and many requests were received to share Jeremy’s words.

You can read Jeremy’s provocation here

Image by Wendi Graham

Later this year, Performing Lines WA will share key highlights and outcomes of the past three years of Kolyang. Thanks to support from the Australia Council for the Arts, we are working with the team at Tracker Development to document and showcase the unique and significant impact the Kolyang Creative Hub and Artist Lab has delivered to WA-based artists and arts workers and share this nationally. Keep an eye on our channels later in the year for the roll-out.

I just want to say thanks to Performing Lines WA for creating this space for us, for showing us the respect of paying us to participate in the process and for the massive amounts of hard work, that as a small organization, they’ve put in for the forethought of having a diversity lab and a disability-led artist lab, where those emerging artists can come in and find this incredible community we’re talking about. I think it’s been a gift for everybody involved.

 

shared artist advisory member and hub participant Mel Cantwell.

We offer our thanks to our partner organisations in 2022 – My Place Ltd, CircuitWest, Yirra Yaakin, Perth Festival, Black Swan State Theatre Company, Co3, PICA, STRUT Dance and DADAA. Each partner provided fees and bursaries for cohort members.

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