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Regional Arts Development Central West NSW

A party to remember

AOW 50th Anniversary_Cazeil Creative_010624_0072

On Saturday 1 June 2024 we celebrated 50 years of arts and cultural development with a dinner and exhibitions at Forbes Town Hall.

Arts OutWest, the peak arts body and regional arts development organisation for the NSW Central West, has been working across the region for 50 years.

Over half a century we have been committed to promoting, facilitating, educating and advocating for arts and cultural development. Read more about our history.

Dinner included music from young Canowindra musicians Jonty and Samuel from Orange Regional Conservatorium, Tim Hansen, due Great Aunt (Chelsea Allen and Megan Bird), Georgia Sederis, and Maz Rees playing the Forbes Town Pipe Organ.

Four exhibitions were opened during the afternoon, showcasing recent work by members of the Forbes Arts Society, work by Arts OutWest staff, board and advisory council members, and photography from Arts OutWest’s Media Associates.  The 4th is the Plinth Show featuring Parkes Wiradjuri artist Ronda Sharpe at Forbes Visitor Information Centre.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts Julia Finn, Member for Orange Phil Donato, Member for Calare Andrew Gee, Ben Franklin MLC, and CEO of Regional Arts NSW Tracey Callinan were amongst the high profile attendees at the dinner, along with many past staff and board members and lots of artists and arts supporters from the region.

There was much chatting, catching up, meeting of people from different parts of the region or different eras of the organisation. There was even some enthusiastic dance floor moves when the band struck up ABBA’s Waterloo (also 50 years old this year).

The cake was cut by past executive director Tracey Callinan OAM and the very first Field Officer for the organisation (1974-1985) Margaret Smith.

Arts OutWest is one of 15 regional arts development organisations across the state, receiving funding from state, local and federal government and working with a wide range of partners to deliver support and run strategic arts projects in their region.

Quotes from speakers on the night:

I’m proud to say that when I became Mayor of Forbes I made our contribution to Arts OutWest a line item. We must have it… The fabric of life living in rural and regional areas – we must have arts and culture… I am so honoured and privileged and proud to say happy 50th anniversary to Arts OutWest. Thank you for everything you’ve done for Forbes. – Mayor of Forbes Phyllis Miller OAM.

Congratulations Arts OutWest on reaching a 50 year milestone, that is an incredible achievement for an arts organisation, for the creative communities of the Central West to be able to thrive adapt and grow over five decades… And of course Arts OutWest is one of 15 regional arts development organisations across the state. And they do incredible work not just supporting creative communities but bringing the work of creative communities to one another and to audiences far and wide. In nurturing artist talent, promoting community engagement and enhancing the cultural vitality in Central West NSW…. Despite rapidly changing circumstances in country NSW.

So thank you to Arts OutWest for all the fantastic work you do. I’m looking forward to the ongoing exhibitions and support and seeing your work come to life in local hospitals and other spaces around the central west as a leader in arts and cultural development acting as the peak body in the region to provide advice, assistance, to the sector. Your work is crucial in navigating the threats and opportunities that come our way in the next 50 years of cultural and technological change. – Julia Finn MP, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts

Thank you to the whole team for inviting me here. It is really special to be here to once again support a regional arts organisation that I think is without peer in the state…

I’ll start with a more personal story. I grew up in a tiny country town called Barra. Most of you won’t have heard of it, a little town of 1000 people of the Murray River. My dad was the high school Principal my mum was the kindergarten teacher and it’s a town like a lot of towns in regional NSW that was obsessed with sport. And that’s okay. That’s good. But I wasn’t, in case you can’t tell, the sporty kind. And I for a few years I didn’t have my tribe. And I felt a bit lost and a bit alienated. Until I went to a camp at a place called Berrrambula in Wagga which was a sport and rec camp, and it was a camp for creative kids who were interested in arts and drama and music and kids from all over the Riverina came. And for the first time in my life I thought I have a tribe and people who actually care about the things that I care about and were like me. And that’s why this organization is important. For those kids who need to see a path for themselves having RADOs across the state who do the work that they do is so important.  – Ben Franklin MLC, President of the Legislative Council of NSW Parliament

Ben Franklin MLC, President of the Legislative Council of NSW Parliament then announced, to cheers, that on 7 August Arts OutWest’s While the World Waits and Belong exhibitions will open at the Fountain Court of NSW Parliament House, under his hosting.

Can I say this is a wonderful night, to have a celebration of 50 years of genuine deep cultural impact, artistic impact, on this community, and on so many communities across NSW . It’s really special to be here. Thank you so much to all of you for the commitment that you have made to supporting the arts and cultural throughout the state and throughout this nation. We appreciate it, we acknowledge it, and we will never forget it. – Ben Franklin MLC, President of the Legislative Council of NSW Parliament

What an outstanding evening to be able to sit here and see so many faces, familiar faces from across the whole Central West gathered here for what is a hugely important event… it shows the commitment when you have all three levels of government… in attendance tonight just goes to show the level of importance we all place on arts in our regions.

Happy birthday to Arts OutWest, to Margot and your hard working board … to everyone else involved congratulations.. an amazing effort… and long may it continue and wish you a great success. – Phil Donato MP, Member for Orange

Thankyou for coming here to celebrate Arts OutWest’s 50 years. 50 years of magic. 50 years of enriching our lives and enriching our communities with wonderful culture and art. Having a thriving culture and art scene is absolutely the key thriving regional communities.

I was at Portland early today and they are establishing an arts precinct at the Foundations . they have artists in residence, people are actually moving to Portland to be part of the vibe. It shows you the power of art and how it in impact culture.

I’d like to congratulate you all on thank you all for all the work that you are all doing in our communities across the region to support our regional arts. I know you are working in many different ways. – Andrew Gee MP, Member for Calare

I have had such a wonderful time tonight seeing so many people that I knew in my time here… But what I actually want to talk about is why I think the arts OutWest’s birthday tonight is so important. As it has already been mentioned there are 15 RADOs across NSW. NSW doesn’t look like any other state. Because we have these organisations that are set up across the state that are each independent. They are on the ground. They work out for themselves what best fits their area. So even though I may be CEO of Regional Arts NSW and I work with the RADOs to support them, to do advocacy, to be a voice, I’m not their boss. They set their own targets. It’s a model that works really well. But Arts OutWest was the very first. So that’s why it’s so important. That our state has a really effective network of fantastic organisations. And we have that network across NSW because of what happened with Arts OutWest – and may I mention the fact that first arts officer that came into the role – Margaret [Smith] – was  able to really embed it and make it count. So thank you Margaret.

Thank you to all the past executive officers – they were called RADOS, regional arts development officers, there have been many names – but there has been such an array of fantastic almost entirely women.

Arts OutWest as the first we helped set something up here that has spread across the whole state. Thank you everybody for being here, for your support of Arts OutWest. – Tracey Callinan OAM, CEO of Regional Arts NSW

Successful organisations are based on the Board and staff and the dedication of those people. As well as our communication and our work with communities, I am so thankful for everything that has come before me. Of course, when I talk about community I talk about an area slightly larger than Tasmania. And that hasn’t changed since day one – in fact I read that in an early report.

We work with 12 local government areas with different priorities but all with a desire to create a better world and support the arts in our region. And I’m so grateful for that. We partner with some wonderful organisation across the region including Charles Sturt University which hosts our office at Bathurst, National Parks whom with we have a beautiful little gallery at Hartley which Aleshia curates work of Aboriginal artists. The Western NSW Local Health District though our arts and health program. We’ve recently signed an MOU with Headspace to work with them in Bathurst and I’m really interested in working with young people. I know how hard it is to find a tribe.

As we develop our new strategic plan for the next four years we’ll be consulting with you – probably most of the people that are in this room as well as other people in the community. But there is still a need for much of the work that we are already doing including working with our Aboriginal and First Nations artists, working on our arts and health programs. Our state wide RADO network is working together on a cultural tourism project and we will be bring that, moving our part of that forward, particularly working with Aboriginal artists in our community. Arts and health will remain one of our focus areas as we mentioned. And arts and health has been an important part of our work over many years. That work started with Hannah Semler who is here tonight, many years ago. You can see some beautiful videos on our website talking about the arts and health programs including Virtual Art Snacks. – Kylie Shead, Executive Director, Arts OutWest

Kylie also introduced our new our sensory puppet who is going to be working in aged care and dementia units. Read more about Fluffy here and support fluffy and our aged care work with a donation to the Arts OutWest Cultural Fund.

Photos by Helen Carpenter, Carolyn Hide, Neil Hide, Judi Unger and additional social snaps from guests. 

Main image: Header image: Musicians Tim Hansen, Georgia Sederis, Chelsea Allan, Megan bird/ photo Cazeil Creative.