Con­nected to cul­ture

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - by KYLIE WIL­SON

ACROSS the North East and be­yond, a hand­ful of arts coun­cils and bod­ies rep­re­sent­ing the arts help bring cul­tural events di­rectly to their com­mu­ni­ties.

Filled with peo­ple with a pas­sion for the arts, they help raise the pro­file of cre­ative ex­pres­sion of all kinds and or­gan­ise count­less events and per­for­mances at var­i­ous venues through­out the re­gion.

Num­bered among the North East’s many ac­tive arts groups are Wan­garatta Arts Coun­cil and Arts Yackan­dan­dah.

Wan­garatta Arts Coun­cil has a long con­nec­tion with its com­mu­nity, hav­ing orig­i­nally formed in 1951.

The coun­cil re­cently en­tered a new era, with pres­i­dent of some 17 years, Marg Brick­hill, hand­ing over the reins to new pres­i­dent Su­san Robert­son.

Marg said the arts have en­riched her life from the mo­ment she be­gan study­ing mu­sic as a young­ster, con­tin­u­ing into her study­ing dance in her 30s, and she also has a par­tic­u­lar affin­ity for jazz and live per­for­mance.

“The arts have en­riched my life enor­mously and I am glad that I can help to make them more avail­able in Wan­garatta,” Marg said.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pe­ri­ence so much arts ac­tiv­ity in Wan­garatta, es­pe­cially live mu­sic.

“The arts bring a vi­tal­ity to com­mu­ni­ties and as­sist in the de­vel­op­ment of com­mu­nity, and they pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for healthy re­cre­ation and ways to learn.

“De­vel­op­ment of cre­ativ­ity in all as­pects of life is very im­por­tant.”

She said the Wan­garatta Arts Coun­cil has helped grow many lo­cal arts ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing the Wan­garatta Fes­ti­val of Jazz, the de­vel­op­ment of the Wan­garatta Art Gallery, and many more, and will con­tinue to do so into the fu­ture.

“The Wan­garatta Arts Coun­cil has con­tributed to the cul­tural vi­tal­ity of Wan­garatta for nearly 70 years,” Marg said.

Su­san has had a con­nec­tion with the work of the coun­cil ever since she was a small girl, when her grand­mother used to take her to per­for­ma­ces put on by the coun­cil.

“My fam­ily still has con­tact with 100 year old Enid McKen­zie, one of the arts coun­cil’s orig­i­nal mem­bers,” Su­san said.

She said she has been in­volved with coun­cil di­rectly for about 18 months since retiring from work.

“Hav­ing a son who is a Wan­garatta High School/ Univer­sity of Mel­bourne qual­i­fied mu­si­cian gives me a greater un­der­stand­ing of artists per­for­mance strug­gles and per­for­mance op­por­tu­ni­ties,” she said.

Su­san said she is keen to em­brace her new role and keep en­cour­ag­ing an ac­tive arts sec­tor in Wan­garatta and district.

“My as­pi­ra­tions as pres­i­dent is to hope­fully, with the as­sis­tance of the com­mit­tee mem­bers, con­tinue to pro­vide a va­ri­ety of cul­tural events that ri­val events one would have to travel to the met­ro­pol­i­tan to ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

“Also, I am very pas­sion­ate about op­por­tu­ni­ties for young artists and hope­fully we can pro­vide im­pe­tus for more mu­sic op­por­tu­ni­ties in schools.

“We would be en­hanc­ing the al­ready ex­ist­ing school mu­sic pro­grams through greater col­lab­o­ra­tion and per­for­mance op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Su­san said hav­ing a vi­brant arts sec­tor is es­sen­tial for com­mu­ni­ties, adding that the Wan­garatta Arts Coun­cil was al­ways will­ing to con­sult with the com­mu­nity about events and projects.

“We, the arts coun­cil have a com­mu­nity obli­ga­tion to en­hance peo­ples lives through the pro­vi­sion of a va­ri­ety of cul­tural events, thus adding mean­ing and hap­pi­ness to lives - giv­ing peo­ple choice is very im­por­tant in our busy lives,” she said.

Sec­re­tary of Arts Yackan­dan­dah, Bev­er­ley Lello, is equally pas­sion­ate about both her town and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, and said the com­mit­tee has grown a lot from small be­gin­nings in 2000.

Since then, it has be­come some­what of an “um­brella group” that has helped groups in­clud­ing the Yackan­dan­dah Com­mu­nity Choir, Uke-N-Dan­dah, po­etry and writ­ing groups, and more, as well as fa­cil­i­tat­ing tour­ing pro­duc­tions.

Bev­er­ley said she was a sec­ondary school English and Lit­er­a­ture teacher and her prin­ci­pal in­ter­est in the arts was the­atre and “any form of bring­ing words to life.

“I feel that the arts are an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of our per­sonal lives and the life of a com­mu­nity,” Bev­er­ley said.

“Ex­hi­bi­tions, per­for­mances and op­por­tu­ni­ties to come to­gether with other like-minded peo­ple en­sure that we con­nect with oth­ers in our com­mu­nity and keep these com­mu­ni­ties vi­brant.”

Bev­er­ley said she was proud of the work Arts Yackan­dan­dah had done over the years.

“The struc­ture of our com­mit­tee as an um­brella for a num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions has meant there is a safety net when events are staged,” she said.

“This has given groups the con­fi­dence to present quite am­bi­tious pro­grams.

“Con­sis­tent qual­ity means the au­di­ences know they can be guar­an­teed an en­joy­able evening out in their own com­mu­nity.

“Per­haps, the great­est achievement is in­volv­ing so many lo­cals in these events,” she said, adding that through good au­di­ences, pru­dent fi­nan­cial man­age­ment and sev­eral grants, the group has been able to in­vest prof­its back into com­mu­nity arts fa­cil­i­ties.

“The events we sup­port and stage an­nounce to the world that Yackan­dan­dah is a good place to be, even for a visit.”

For in­for­ma­tion about your near­est arts coun­cil or arts rep­re­sen­ta­tive body, sim­ply search on­line, or to find out more about the Wan­garatta Arts Coun­cil see the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Face­book page, while Arts Yackan­dan­dah can be found at arts.yackan­dan­

PHOTO: Kylie Wil­son

PASS­ING THE TORCH: Wan­garatta Arts Coun­cil’s new pres­i­dent Su­san Robert­son with out­go­ing pres­i­dent Marg Brick­hill.

KEEN VOL­UN­TEER: Bev­er­ley Lello is a key mem­ber of Arts Yackan­dan­dah.

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