Arts Nexus was formed in 1995 due to needs seen at the grass roots in the arts community and expressed as consistent priorities in a range of regional plans undertaken by all levels of government. The need remains consistent – for the region’s cultural expression to flourish in its own right to augment imported product, so enriching cultural life within the region and a sense of a distinct cultural identity to project outwards to share with visitors.
This was tacitly recognised in the ‘FNQ 2010’ Regional Plan, which included the aim to:
- Develop a strong, sustainable arts, entertainment and cultural industry
- To support the economic development of the region.
In addressing this, the original priorities identified in 1995 called for a lead agency to act across the region to coordinate:-
- information and networking
- training and professional development
- promotion and marketing
Based around these priorities, artsworkers experienced in regional and community cultural development came together to form an organisation first named the ‘Far North Cultural Industry Association’ [FNCIA], incorporated in May 1996, and renamed Arts Nexus in 2000. Arts Nexus has consistently demonstrated effective and innovative regional cultural development infrastructure and programs through
- identifying sector needs through research and consultation
- building responsive info systems and referral capabilities
- facilitating networking, skills workshops, seminars and mentoring
- providing pathways for access to Govt. and business development
- initiated export focussed showcases
A new era has begun ….
In 2016 Arts Queensland agreed to support the sustainability of the organisation with a strategic investment to provide interim funding for one year. In this time we have achieved this is by;
- Attracting new and existing members back to organisation
- Providing a tailored suite of services and program for members and stakeholders
- Strategically re-branding and updating website
- Exposed the regions arts sector to national and international audiences
- Supporting cross-regional cultural strategies and initiatives.
A partnership has formed with a local business based in Cairns and opened up stage one of the “Global Village” concept. A starting point to hold events, gather our membership and have street presence.
Monday and Tuesdays 10am – 8pm with a full program of activities, training and member MeetUPs held at …..
Significant Milestones for the first decade include:-
- initiated Arts Nexus magazine and formed steering group towards incorporation
- incorporated as FNCIA [renamed Arts Nexus Inc. in 2000
- commissioned first baseline economic study The Arts and Entertainment Industries in FNQ – Quantification of Economic Importance and Development Issues 1996 by economist WS Cummings
- undertook Art Horizons consultation/planning within FNQ RADFs, Festivals, CSP reps, and artsworker/organisers
- on prime reference group to FNQ 2010 Plan, FNQ Tradeable Services Report, Cairns Region Tourism Strategy, Regional Events Plan, Regional Employment Plan – this latter plan then yielded RAP funding for first Marketing Officer to Kick Arts/JUTE, and a QAA Indigenous Officer in FNQ
- undertook first Arts Nexus Strategic Plan 1997-2000
- developed network of FNQ volunteer reps of Brisbane agencies QCAN, Ausdance, ATQ, QWC
- provided modems to FNQ key players for networking and beginnings of infrastructure
- provided first FNQ festivals directory
- organised Arts Writing Seminar + 1.1 intensives for 10 FNQ writers
- facilitated cultural policy development for 3 Tableland Shires
- commenced almost the first arts eBulletin email service in Qld
- provided board representation on QCAN, ATQ, QWC
- commissioned FNQ MICE Tourism Strategy [Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions]
- opened public office in Cairns, appointed EO and administrator and began direct services
- [Nexus magazine closed pro-tem due to lack of funding]
- provided interim newsletter [volunteer] for 18 months
- initiated reciprocal memb’ship with 8 key Brisbane agencies
- re-established Arts Nexus magazine with cocktail of funds
- continued eBulletins [unfunded]
- facilitated visit to establish an Arts Law branch in Cairns
- coordinated national training in FNQ for Australia Council in Marketing for Arts Organisations
- appointed by AQ to reference group to develop Regional Arts Strategy for Queensland
- appointed to peak Cairns Region 2000 Taskforce [cross-sector]
- [loss of salaried EO due to short-term “project-only” funding]
- Nexus eBulletins now reaching 300 [volunteer effort]
- appointed to Ministerial Regional Communities Forum [Premiers]
- Presenter – Regional Arts Australia biennial conference in WA
- Focus Group member – Cairns Cultural Precinct Study [KPMG]
- Mentor on national fuel4arts website [topic -Regional Arts]
- appointed new EO and Administration Officer on project-only funds
- contracted by State Development to coordinate tailored Retail Skills training for Indigenous Craft Outlets via Retail Skills Centre
- hosted Public Art Forum with Arts Training Qld [led to first TAFE course on Public Art in Qld]
- hosted Arts Accounting + Writing and Publishing training in FNQ
- participated in key orgs board training [by CCDB OzCo]
- launched Arts Nexus Strategic Plan 2001-2004
- launched Arts Nexus new ‘gateway’ website
- Cultural Xchange partnership development project funded by CCDB OzCo
- initiated Craft Connect partnered with Kuranda Arts Cooperative
- Craft Connect presented to State Architects Conf. Townsville
- [loss of EO/admin staff due to project-only funding issue]
- [ceased publication of Nexus magazine due to nil funding]
- new project funds – recommenced Nexus magazine from Aug.
- launched Arts Nexus Marketing Plan 2002-2003
- gained Key Orgs funds [$42K] from CCDB OzCo for ccd
- gained Trainee [supervised by unpaid ‘staff’ in the circumstances]
- presenter -FNQ creative ckuster model at international global clusters conference
- provided groundwork, networking, regional travel and Arts Law w’shops for FNQ ATSI Unit project as offshoot of Craft Connect project that led to the Saltwater Collection.
- showcased Craft Connect with Kuranda Coop in Cairns and Singapore for Tourism Qld
- undertook RADF Monitoring project across 12 FNQ Shires [for AQ]
- reappointed second term as cultural rep. to Regional Communities Forum [Premiers]
- presenter -Korean Govt. Cultural Delegation for Dept of Trade
- presenter – RADF Capitalising on Culture conference and publication
- undertook FNQ Festivals survey, with insurance advice to Govt.
- Hosted -Inter. Womens Day event with Dr Carmen Lawrence MP
- Presenter -Arts/Disability Forum for Cairns City Council
- Presenter -International Womens Day event in Innisfail
- Coordinated –International Editing Masterclass in FNQ [Premiers Dept]
- Presenter- iRADF CAPO Officers conference Cairns
- Appointed – Public Art Manager for Kuranda streetscape
- Hosted 3 day Disability Action Week training/ forums with Access Arts in Cairns and Innisfail
- Coordinated key players focus group for OzCo’s Sue Fisher
- Hosted – Art Lovers Lunch at Hilton with curator John Stringer [Kerry Stokes Collection}
- Hosted – Art on the Run with John Stringer as student slide/talk at TAFE
- Hosted – one day regional Collaboration Seminar – Cairns
- gained Key Orgs funds [$50K] from CCDB OzCo for ccd
- appointed to CCDB national leadership advisory group [OzCo Sydney]
- hosted networking Arts lunch with federal Minister Rod Kemp MP
- coordinated accredited training in Cultural Policy for QCAN
- coordinated training in FNQ for QAC [6 x 1 day modules]
- Craft Connect showcase at Sydney Gift Fair with AQ FNQ Unit
- Craft Connect showcase return to Singapore [Aust. Tourist Comm.]
- representative -regional input to Senate Inquiry re Training
- Nexus Magazine 50th Jubilee issue [but one-off funding ceased]
- Nexus eBulletins now reaching 1000+ [but one-off funding again ceased]
- provided State Development Brisbane with FNQ CI database
- coordinated FNQ forum for Qld. CI Strategy consultation [70 people]
- coordinated regional input State Development Brisbane on QCIS
- providing secretariat for new FNQ creative industries cluster
- coordinated accredited training in Cultural Planning and Community Consultation for QCAN
- trained RADFs in Atherton and Georgetown
- initiated Tropical Expresso writngs and readings program to fill gap for writing artform
- undertook Youth Entepreneurial project [YEP] in Mareeba with at-risk Aborognal young people
- hosted visit and regional forum by Kaos Pilots from Denmark [for State Development and QUT]
- auspiced Walking the Streets Festival Cairns artist-driven project
- auspiced Through the Eyes of the Elders Yarrabah visual at ccd project with Qld Council of Carers
- gained CIP truennial funding from Arts Qld from July [$18K, $55K. $60K]
- re-established Arts Nexus magazine publication and other communiications
- auspiced Blackrobats youth circus x 5 grants in all
- 12 forums and /or workshops with QWC, Craft Qld, ArtsLaw, QCAN, JCU and QAC
- Sound Circles project for people with disabilities in FNQ [partnered with Access Arts]
- Two Sound Circles people to Japan [World Expo] and 2 to China [Wataboshi Int. Music Festival}
- hosted presentations with Austrade, Brisbane Writers Festival
- hosted 4 networking forums with local, national and one international presenter
- ran workshps on grant-writing and other skils
- auspiced Through the Eyes of the Elders Yarrabah visual at ccd project with Qld Council of Carers
- presented Schizophrenia Awareness Week exhibition at The Hilton [with Centacare Mental Health]
- hosted Leading Voices marketing workshop for the Australia Council
- assisted State Development launch the Creative Industries Toolkit in Cairns
- EO on national arts and culture alliance [NACA] working group
- EO published article in national Artwork community arts magazine
- CDO on QCAN Board and Cairns City Council RADF panel
- CDO managed Festival Cairns lantern parade community project
- facilitated key players consultation on Cairns cultural facilities
- successful submission to Premiers for cultural recovery funds for the Cyclone Larry affected
- assisted Cairns Little Theatre get capital works funds through doing their grant-writing
- CDO managed Festival Cairns lantern parade community project [1100 participants]
- auspiced 14 projects in all
- managed 29 training /networking events on our own or in partnership with diverse others
- over 300 appointments or longer meetings assisting community members or groups
- initiated FestlinX – 12 month fesitvals development program across region
- gained deductable gift status
- Joined QCAN pilot project on eLearning
- initiated new baseline economic study for FNQ creative industries with cluster/ State Development
Based in Cairns, Arts Nexus acts as an umbrella cultural development and macro service infrastructure to support all the FNQ regions cultural sector and its stakeholders. At its core are
- Creators as the generators or driver managers in new entrepreneurial micro-business production and markets [in all artforms and cultural practices] then
- Presenters [government, commercial and community-based venues and agencies such as galleries, museums, theatres, festivals, conferences, tours or showcases in and out of the region]. The third element in this dynamic system is
- Consumers or buyers, who also receive services to enjoy FNQ creativity, which supports the creative community.
Formed in 1995 and incorporated in May 1996, Arts Nexus Inc was a response to implement the priorities of a Regional Economic Development Strategy for FNQ Arts and Culture initiated by State Development. Arts Nexus was additionally responding to a range of prior cultural planning, all with compellingly consistent priorities for foundational development and support services based on the need for coordination, information access, networking, skills development, and collaborative promotion of FNQ culture.
This was to support and retain creative producers and presenters in regional practice, to enrich the cultural life of the region, and over time to develop exports, nationally and internationally. The enduring objectives have been confirmed in Strategic Plans 1997-2000 and 2001-2004, and 2004 -2006, all determined through wide industry consultation. Although a Key annual organisation at the Australia Council for 6 years and one of only 7 currently listed in the Australia Council’s index of Resource Organisations under the Community Cultural Development heading nationally, only since 2004 has Arts Nexus been a triennial client of Arts Queensland, surviving until then with difficulty on as cocktail of one-off project grants.
Through the early establishment of Arts Nexus magazine as its flagship coordination service, augmented by electronic systems, Arts Nexus has been instrumental in establishing a network of communications between artists and organisations within the region, and building a sense of dialogue and a connected arts community or sector, with strong links to the state and national support scene. In doing so, Arts Nexus has built the region-wide “cross-weave” to what were only vertical strands from the capital a decade ago.
In meeting its charter, Arts Nexus now provides access to a broad range of practical development services – advice and information, coordination and networking, skills development in creative industry management, other relevant training and professional development, employment referral, project and event management, industry promotion, planning input and advocacy.
Arts Nexus has largely done so by building relationships over many years, now firm partnerships, with a wide range of state agencies, overcoming their former ‘Burke and Wills’ expeditionary behaviour to the regions with a welcoming and facilitated ‘footprint’ provided into the region via Arts Nexus organising local logistics, including media and promotion, registrations, venues and hospitality for outside agencies to “bungee-jump” into the region within cost constraints. It’s seamless, cost-effective and efficient, delivering record audiences for partner programs through Arts Nexus extensive established sector networks, with more agencies signing up per year to work through this established and credible system. As a result of this cultural evolution, the FNQ region can be said to be in the third of three evolutionary phases, to which Arts Nexus has been both respondent and strategic leader.
In Phase One or the “colonial outpost” era of the early 1990s when all services were in Brisbane and regions were merely audiences for touring product, regional cultural expression / production was fragmented and dismissed as amateur. It was not until 1995 that Cairns Regional Gallery was opened, with the Cairns campus of James Cook University built in the same year along with Arts Nexus building the first local arts database and initiating Arts Nexus magazine (still the only one of its kind in regional Australia) as joint-marketing to promote local expression alongside touring product.
In the late 1990s this direct mail service was augmented by an e-mail newsletter (almost the first of its kind within the Queensland arts and cultural sector, grew to 1000+ subscribers). In 2000 the Arts Nexus website, with calendaring and other resources, cementing a ‘virtual’ way for Arts Nexus to deliver services in a region twice the area of Victoria, thus also beginning to address a tendency for ‘Cairns-centrism’. These innovations typify the priorities of this phase, directed at bringing otherwise isolated artists, performers and writers into dialogue to form a self-identified creative community across the region for the first time. Arts Nexus was also active in policy and planning circles cross-sector and at state and national levels, embeding culture into plans including the 2010 Regional Plan.
Phase Two around 2002-2003 got serious about up-skilling the region’s creative producers, leading to the partnerships with relevant Statewide arts agencies, with Arts Nexus increasingly becoming the local agent for these state and national bodies to foray into FNQ. Arts Nexus mounted its own training in areas of perceived gaps, leading the first showcases of regional product to test markets within the Sydney Gift Fair and showcasing craft in Singapore twice under its craft development project, Craft Connect.
2004-2006 has been typified by consolidation as an annual Key Organisation from the Australia Council and gaining triennial funding from Arts Queensland for the first time, allowing the addition of programs providing more live engagement and interaction across the region. These include networking forums, an enhanced advice and referral service, auspices and mentoring, active facilitation of other FNQ organisations by invitation to undertake forward planning, and greater community access and interactivity on Arts Nexus website. Increasingly, these endeavours have worked collaboratively with partnering agencies.
During this phase Arts Nexus actively participated in development of the first Queensland Creative Industries Strategy, adopted by State Development in 2004, so extending the scope of activities from arts and culture as an agent of social change to also facilitating greater business sustainability for those working in creative enterprises. Arts Nexus has since hosted the FNQ creative industries cluster, Tropical Creatives, who have recently driven a repeat of the baseline economic study of FNQ creative industries that Arts Nexus originally commissioned in 1996. Economist Bill Cummings shows that turnover has doubled in a decade, with the industry worth $280m, greater than sugar at $240m and Fishing at $180-200m.
Creative Industries is poorly recognised by those that see business as traditional edifice enterprises, not people with IP that can be commercialised. In all its work, Arts Nexus recognises that at the core of intuitive and high order learning, innovation and creativity, is the free flow of information and ideas between people and organisations, reliant on the currency of networks, and the quality of relationships. Arts Nexus has been a key driver in building an identifiable creative sector of some depth for the region over the past decade through such internal sector development that still continue. That is, through communication services, skills development, business development and sector building.
Phase Three from 2007, while retaining existing services, sees more emphasis being placed on becoming more outward looking. There is now a need to foster greater participation in creativity and in cultural life across the regional community. This is to foster a more creative community, build audiences and thus sustainability for the region’s producers. Domestically, this will include working collaboratively cross-sector. It will also involve projecting the region’s cultural output and profile beyond the region both nationally and internationally, through tourism, and the beginnings of export from the region. All phases have the underpinning theme of contributing to a cohesive society, its sense of identity and community well-being.
to be continued …….