August 30, 2018

The venues of This Is Not Art: Where artist meets community

The venues of This Is Not Art: Where artist meets community

This is Not Art (or TiNA since we’re friends) is an annual four-day emerging arts festival that activates around key venues within the city of Newcastle.

TiNA blends theatre, writing, visual arts and new media with the aim to nurture a community practice that invites businesses, locals, day-trippers and artists to discover Newcastle’s creative and historic personality. Originating as an industrial hub for steel, coal and shipbuilding with a large working class and convict population, and a rich Indigenous heritage, Newcastle is today considered a burgeoning creative capital of Australia. TiNA hopes to share this identity and history through dynamic storytelling and progressive event programming that advocates for accessibility and inclusiveness.

The art forms and practices curated for This is Not Art take place at well-known and recognisable cultural landmarks that draw upon the architectural heritage of the city. TiNA could not exist without the help and support of key venues that support and sustain the festival. By creating relationships with community and public spaces we’re able to strengthen artist connections and support creativity at all levels.

To gain insight into this intersection between artist, venue and community, we caught up with Gillean Shaw, Art Curator at the University of Newcastle and Watt Space to talk about how and why hosting cultural events in Newcastle empowers the local community.

What is the importance of partnering with the local community and fellow creative organisations to create events like TiNA?

Gillian: Watt Space has been in operation for 30 years and started it’s life as a student initiative supported by the student union. Things have changed but the gallery has retained it’s “by students for students” mantra. Many of the students engaged with Watt Space have also been part of TiNA over the years.  There seems to be a resurgence of energy around creative expression in Newcastle and TiNA has always been a major part of creatives coming together – now with the uni centrally placed in the city and with Watt Space already having a firm place in the cultural precinct. This community can only strengthen with partnerships and the sharing of resources.

Watt Space Gallery connects artists with the community

Do you have thoughts on the long-term impact of such events to the cultural vista of Newcastle?

Gillian: TiNA has always brought the external community to Newcastle and it is a really rewarding experience I think for those who live here and who visit – it presents new material ideas but importantly forges long term and mutually beneficial projects.  The visibility and energy produced from such events provides opportunity and really valuable community engagement.

You may have noticed our TiNA social media profiles have been wanting to know favourite spots and insider tips from both locals and visitors to Newcastle. What is your preferred spot to relax?

Gillian: I love walking down to the Honeysuckle foreshore and watching the working harbour… so rare.

More about our venue partners:

These key venues continue to support TiNA and the wider community through providing a platform for emerging and established artists to present their works to a supportive audience.

The Lock Up existed as Newcastle Police Station for more than a hundred years until its closure in 1982. This iconic sandstone building is now on the NSW Heritage Register and features rare examples of 1800’s holding cells (hence the name) and an exercise yard still decorated with the graffiti of past inmates. In 2007 The Lock Up became a leading contemporary arts hub promoting national and international artists and a refurbishment in 2014 saw the site become a dedicated contemporary art space.

The Lock Up features a gallery space that was once the charge room, an event and installation space where inmates once spent their yard time, and artists apartments for their nationally renowned Artist in Residence (AIR) Program.

Holding cells turned art and event space, The Lock-Up

Watt Space Gallery is an ever-evolving and regenerative art space and the longest-running student gallery in Australia. It’s purpose: to expose the works of current and former University of Newcastle students to the public.

Located in Northumberland House, part of the University’s recently refurbished CBD precinct, Watt Space is a former civic building once owned by The Electricity Commision. Much like The Lock Up, Northumberland House is also listed on the heritage register for the significant role it played in Newcastle’s history.

Watt Space’s iconic lightbulb motif symbolises the gallery’s dedication to new media and new ideas that nurture artistic notions through mentorship and support for arts administrators, critics and arts writers.

The Newcastle Art Gallery (NAG) opened in 1977 as Australia’s first purpose-built regional gallery. Designed by Newcastle City Council architect Brian Pile, the building itself is an important example of 1970’s geometric and brutalist architecture. While it’s difficult to overlook Brett Whiteley’s enormous Black Totem II standing tall at the front of the gallery, NAG boasts an impressive collection of rotating artworks that are in demand locally and internationally, including celebrated Novocastrians William Dobell, John Olsen, William Rose, Tom Gleghorn, Ross Morrow and John Molvig – maintaining Newcastle’s position as an arts destination with an ever-expanding cultural vista.

Aerial photograph of Newcastle Art Gallery and Newcastle City Library.

Newcastle City Library

Newcastle City Library is located in the iconic War Memorial Cultural Centre in Laman Street in the heart of Newcastle. In 1957 the building was dedicated as the centre of culture for the City housing the Library, the Art Gallery and the Conservatorium. The library now extends over all levels of the building and includes an extensive lending library, a study area and computer lab as well as one of the country’s most comprehensive local history collections. The second floor also houses the exhibition spaces: the Lovett Gallery and the Local History Lounge.

To keep up to date with the TiNA excitement, follow us on Instagram @thisisnotart and Facebook. Or add to the festival buzz using the hashtag #thisisnotart2018

Images courtesy of One Stop Productions.