Connected to culture
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.yackandandah.com.
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.