Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

ARTLANDS: Our missing presentation

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Artlands Dubbo Webpage


ARTLANDS DUBBO CONFERENCE: Regional voices missing


Today we were to present a paper at the ARTLAND DUBBO REGIONAL ARTS AUSTRALIA CONFERENCE. Earlier this year we made a submission based on one of the conference themes and were excited to learn that our submission was accepted and that we were going to be able to add our story and project activities in regional arts in Australia to the conference.

However, then we found that the conference fees, despite ‘early bird’ and presenter discounts, combined with the costs to get to Dubbo and be accommodated were enormous. We had to look at support options for grants in Arts Queensland and the Regional Arts Fund and we found that none either ‘fitted’ with our needs or could be responded to in time to register. We therefore withdrew our presentation.

As regional artists, although we’ve been in Brisbane of late, and also independent researchers we have noticed many opportunities at conferences and seminars now require presenters to fund their place in the program. Now that might be affordable to academics, those employed in arts management or facilitation or those who have taxable incomes where such can be an allowable income tax deduction, but others just cannot afford to bear such costs.

It seems to us that many voices in the field of art in Australia are being kept out of the conversation by the cost of participation and the lack of grant support.

There is no doubt that ARTLANDS DUBBO will be a success and all who attend will benefit greatly from the shared experience and networking possible but for us, on this occasion, we stayed at home and worked on our art.


For those interested what follows is our proposal that related to the conference theme – REGENERATION: Exploring arts and cultural development using creativity that positively impacts on community vitality and well being.


Artists in residence programs provide unique opportunities for artists to explore their practice while contributing to the community’s cultural development. We will discuss ‘3 tiers’ of community engagement in our Nocturne AIR Projects: artist as creator, community as creator, and social media as a creative flux for interactive engagement.


We will present a background on the Centre for Regional Arts Practice (Centre) that we formed in 2007 as a response to the circumstances and challenges of artists living in regional Australia. From the beginning the ‘Centre’ has engaged in advocacy, representation, commentary and the development of projects for regional artists and the communication of regional art perspectives.

Nocturne Projects

The ‘Centre’ engages in artist in residency programmes that enable the development of community based Nocturne Projects. These projects have been sponsored through the regional galleries of Muswellbrook, Grafton, Bundaberg, Miles and Armidale. We have also self-funded Nocturne documentary projects across eastern Australia and Tasmania.

3 Tiers of Engagement

In developing the methodology for our AIR Nocturne Projects we identified 3 tiers of community engagement, these are:

  • artist as creator;
  • community as creator: artist as facilitator; and
  • social media as creative flux for interactive engagement.

Artist as creator:

We will talk about how our AIR work allows us to explore themes, both personal and collaborative, in the investigation and representation of “site” and “place” in the Australian landscape. We work to connect contemporary social issues with historical, scientific and mythological insights intrinsic to each site. Critical to, and inherent in, this work is these visual narratives that are deeply rooted in the recording and interaction with each place.

Community as creator – artist as facilitator:

Beyond our own work Nocturne AIR Projects we develop, in conjunction with the local gallery education officers programmes that provide creative development to suit each community’s needs. Included in these programmes may be workshops, practical digital photography shoot-outs and assignment work, image enhancement and file optimisation, one-on-one mentoring, developing social media skills as well as photobook and zine making.

Participants, whether they use hi-tech DSLR cameras, point-n-shoot cameras, tablets or smart phones, connect through meetings and workshop sessions. To provide a continuous stream of inspiration, feedback, instruction and support we establish closed Facebook groups for participants.

Social Media as a creative flux for interactive engagement:

All of the major Nocturne AIR Projects are connected to the broader community by a Facebook page. It enables an online space for sharing and presenting the project work. In the more recent projects, where there was an issue of distance for the regional community members to participate in the project, we managed two FB pages: one for those closely involved in the creative development of the Nocturne Project and another for the gathering and sharing stories through the broader community.

Using the methodology of the three tiers of engagement we believe we explore arts and cultural development using creativity that positively impacts on community vitality and well-being.

Western Downs Regional Council’s Community Development Officer Carollee Murphy stated the following about our Nocturne Miles Project:

Thank you for empowering our community with practical photography and book-making skills. Nocturne Miles installed a greater sense of shared space and community pride. The multi-modal outcomes of this project have been far-reaching, especially through social media and have painted Miles and district in a new light.






10 Responses

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  1. Presenters should be paid … not have to self-fund!



    October 29, 2016 at 5:26 am

    • Thanks Stefan … We’ve presented lectures at conferences all over Australia and New Zealand and always with travel and accommodation support and sometimes a fee. On this occasion we would happy to be able to attend the conference at which we were meant to speak. Conferences run by Academic Institutions and other major bodies are set up as financial earners which benefit those that can afford or gain academic advantage through attendance. There are some great programs that are run by smaller groups that are free – but these rely on a benevolent political funding environment. It is about having a voice with something to say.

      • Yes the arts/photographic community is very lucky to have people like you guys that are so generous with their time and knowledge but I think it’s a bit short-sighted even for a non-profit community based group to at the very least not be securing presenters fees & expenses in their costings and not rely on their generosity and passion … in this particular case everyone missed out as a consequence which is a pity.


        October 29, 2016 at 8:49 am

  2. you make some good points guys — the lack of regional voices (or at the very least – voices not attached to academic institutions or business) in conferences and events such as these has long been a bug-bear of mine —- my other (larger) point of friction is the environmental footprint of this type of conference —- so much of the sharing and presentation can be done using skype or similar which not only would save a lot of wasted air travel (as just one example of the environmental savings to be made) but sharing via online platforms and virtual attendance could make the conference contents available to and from a much larger audience.


    October 30, 2016 at 8:49 am

  3. Hi Vicky and Doug,
    Yes, the fees required to join conferences have lately knocked me out of the circuit too.
    I agree that regional artists’ voices in particular, and those of some very experienced presenters who have plenty to add to debates and who, being retired, have to watch their budgets, are not being heard.
    Thanks to the existence of blogs (like yours) we’re still a presence.
    Many friends still in academia increasingly jet across the earth to attend conferences. Certainly the mixing with colleagues is valuable networking, but at what cost to the atmosphere; plane travel being amongst the major causes of pollution (and ironically some of the presenters doing the flying are environmental scientists!).
    I have presented at 2 conferences live online, in New York and in London, and though they required waking in the night, or staying awake late, to do so, with the help of excellent technical assistance at their end, all I needed was Skype and my fairly average regional connection and experience was just as worthwhile as the ‘real thing’. Connections and discussion could be followed up on line; I asked for and was given all the other presenters’ email.
    Yes, I still had to stump up fees, but conferences don’t run themselves, but it’s helpful if the finger food and conference dinner costs can be waived. Cheaper than mounting an exhibition.
    The alternative of course is to submit your paper to a journal, but the cost of access…there’s another story! However there are some, like 1000Words http://www.1000wordsmag.com/ which are open access. Though none pay, you don’t have to either. Academia.edu, once you join, is another platform, and because of its population papers uploaded there receive timely attention more widespread than the expensive journals.
    Thanks for raising this vexed issue…I look forward to reading or hearing your paper somewhere, somehow.
    It is impossible to give up the compunction to research once you’ve been bitten by that bug…finding an outlet is the problem. In the meantime, lets continue to do our best to knock down the paywalls of the establishment!


    October 30, 2016 at 9:42 am

  4. constant struggle against being marginalised, it’s like talking to a clique wall.

    Roger Skinner

    October 31, 2016 at 8:49 am

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