Listening to Indigenous visual arts organisations at Desart

It’s one year on from the first Australia-wide Covid lockdowns and we’re reflecting on the possibilities emerging for an arts and culture sector that has proven its assiduity and adaptability.

Listening to Indigenous visual arts organisations at Desart

This month we focus on our coaching & advice services with an update from Megan Coupland, State Manager for SA & NT, who recently attended the Desart Art Centre Conference in Alice Springs. She celebrates the resilience of the Indigenous art centre sector and the leadership of the community who have navigated a truly disrupted and unpredictable year.

One of the true joys of my State Manager role is spending time with an incredible array of inspiring artists, arts leaders and fundraising professionals. A core aspect of our work is to provide advice and guidance to build fundraising capacity and help bring artistic ideas to life. I hear about the projects in the pipeline and bear witness to the unlimited creativity, optimism and curiosity in the sector.

Each time I meet with artists and organisations it’s a unique experience. We might talk through opportunities to diversify income streams, or how to craft a compelling case for support. We might talk through steps that can be taken to ensure an organisation is fundraising-ready, or the implementation of a particular fundraising strategy.

One of the critical things we do is to listen. We listen for compelling points of connection to audience or donors, unearthing underlying values. We listen for the articulation of committed supporter networks and the identification of organisational strengths.

During the last week of March I was fortunate to spend time with representatives from Indigenous art centres through Central Australia. It was another wonderful opportunity to listen. To listen to the shared stories and data; the reconfiguration of operations on the fly, the implementation of digital business models and online and hybrid art fairs.

I was struck by the extraordinary resilience of the art centres and their respective peak bodies and associations. Throughout an upended year, they maintained their focus on community and cultural connection.

The obstacles were substantial and significant challenges remain. 2020 created the imperative to focus attention on shaping business models to ensure virtual and IRL accessibility and growth into a hybrid future. Ensuring access to the technology, skills and knowledge to address the digital divide in the art centre landscape is critical.

As we move through 2021, moments like the Desart Conference remind me of the scale of what has been achieved in the sector through COVID. It reminds me how critical it will be to deepen collaborations and support networks in the sector to ensure that appropriate resourcing and partnerships are in place to maintain resilience. And it reminds me how joyful it is – being in the same space together again, sharing stories.