For all its strong arts bent, the cultural life of Leichhardt and its surrounds suffer from a broader affliction common to Sydney – a lack of energy, verve and commitment towards promoting the arts, at least compared to everyone’s favourite yardstick, Melbourne. But a new project from Leichhardt Council is aiming to make the area much more artist-friendly.
An initial gathering of the Generator Forums series saw residents and experts come together to offer their ideas about what Council could provide in terms of the visual and performing arts. The ideas are set to be considered as part of Council’s first-ever Community and Cultural Plan, currently in development.
Leichhardt Mayor Jamie Parker said the plan was a first for Leichhardt.
“Council has invested significantly in key infrastructure, but now it’s time to nourish and develop the cultural life of the area. We are open to ideas to support the creative industry, and there are probably a lot of them with 344 community and cultural organisations in our municipality,” he said.
Artist Mark Titmarsh, a co-founder of the artist-run space Loose Projects, was one of the speakers at the initial forum on October 21. “The main element of my presentation was around the idea of pop-up galleries,” he said. “[Council wants] to find out the ways they can provide opportunities for artists to exhibit their works in the area in all sorts of ways, from on-the-street, to unused premises that are appearing all around at the moment, and any other initiatives that can be used to help artists make their work seen.
“I see my role as an artist-activist. What I hope to achieve by doing what I do, is change the situation for myself and my art community. I find Sydney a pretty low-energy art city. There needs to be a joining-up of the dots where the institutions meet the artists, meet local business, to make it happen.”
Two more Generator Forums remain. The first takes place between 6.30 and 8.30pm at Balmain Town Hall on Thursday, October 28. It centres around the idea of maximising the potential of the Leichhardt, Balmain and Annandale town halls as key cultural venues in the Local Government Area. The final forum, on Wednesday, November 3, is an afternoon session (1-3pm) at The Hannaford Centre in Rozelle, and will focus on using empty shops and warehouses to regenerate areas, and how similar initiatives can be undertaken locally.