APY collective goes to town with remote art
It was perhaps inevitable the runaway success of APY Lands artists this year would raise questions.
How did they do it? Should others imitate or criticise? Another question being quietly debated is whether the stumbling advance of most remote art centres can continue, or if elders’ desires for more jobs and better living standards require an Aboriginal-led professionalisation of the industry.
In the afterglow of top awards and high-profile commissions, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands artists hope to lock in their gains with a new Sydney gallery promising a bush-to-boardroom supply chain (for some works) and more employment.
APY Art Center Collective board member Nyurpaya Kaika Burton explains: “It’s time to challenge the structures, to see whether this income, which is almost the only earned income many com- munities receive, can really make a difference to community life.
“We’ve got a good chance because we’ve got all these strong old people, and we’ve got all these young people engaged … the question is how do we lock it in? It’s about working as a group.”
Ms Burton and others have long complained about carpetbaggers and forgers, supine oversight bodies and undelivered promises. They feel they have strived to de- velop businesses and combat dysfunction but are yet to reap the material benefits fully.
Last year, a group of APY arts organisations controversially resigned from Ananguku Arts, South Australia’s peak body. About 10 have joined the APY Art Centre Collective set up to implement elders’ vision for regional business development and artistic collaboration.
Skye O’Meara, who runs APY- ACC, stresses it “won’t be getting into the peak (body) space” and is not an advocacy group.
“There’s no point in us duplicating what the best galleries do, but we do want to support opportunities where opportunities don’t exist now,” she says. “There are many artists who work on the lands who are not represented, and should be. The gallery/project space will provide these artists with their first platform and allow elders control of distribution.”
If all goes to plan, APYACC will soon open a gallery in Darlinghurst with philanthropic support involving Clare Ainsworth Herschell, actor Amanda MapleBrown and artist Ben Quilty. “If we don’t increase our income then we will leave a worse life for our children than we experienced ourselves,” says artist Iluwanti Ken.
Artists Tjungkara Ken and Yaritji Young visited the space recently and emerged delighted. “It’s a good location with plenty of space,” Tjungkara Ken says. “It’s a fresh start for Anangu business and an opportunity for new exchanges and collaborations.”
Artists Yaritji Young and Tjungkara Ken inspect the space