Tough and Tender program inspires Queensland’s artists to reinvent themselves amidst a changing world

Published:09 September 2020

Twenty-six Queensland-based artists have benefitted from the Central Queensland Regional Arts Services Network's Tough and Tender Artist-in-Residency program.

Central Queensland’s artists have risen to the challenge of working in isolation and have found value in their arts practices by their involvement in the Central Queensland Regional Arts Services Networks’ (CQRASN) Tough and Tender Beauty Artist ‘at home’ residency program.

Created in response to the impact of drought, fire and floods, and the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Tough and Tender program is the first phase of the signature project for the Central Queensland Regional Arts Services Network for 2020-21 and will profile the importance of the arts for creative response, resilience, recovery, memorialising and celebration.

Over 30 regional artists from areas including Rockhampton, Capricorn Coast, Mackay, Gympie, the Banana shire region, and Kingaroy came together – virtually – to share their collective visions through an online program and in turn create new memorable works of art – for themselves and, in some cases, their respective communities.

CQRASN Regional Arts Officer Julie Barratt said “the opportunity for artists living on remote properties to develop strong networks with other artists in similar situations and through the weekly zoom meetings to build a rapport will last far beyond the one month program.”

“Many participants spoke about the residency giving 'value' to their arts practice and also how important it was to have a chunk of time to devote to their practice and the opportunity to experiment and to think more about the 'process' rather than the 'outcome',” she said.

Julie’s colleague in Mackay, CQRASN Regional Arts Project Officer Wanda Bennett agreed.

“In each round there were not only artists from different regions but also very diverse practices - Visual artists (working in all disciplines), writers, sculptures, musicians, comedians, and dancers. This led to all participants developing a deeper understanding of how different creatives work and provided a perfect platform to develop future collaborations,” she said.

“One of the surprising outcomes of this aspect of the residency, was how much the artists valued being able share what they had been working on with the group and the opportunity to receive 'informal' supportive feedback and advice.

“Many of the program participants had very limited or no experience with online blogging, web management and online promotion, an extremely successful aspect of the At-Home AIR program has been the ability to upskill these artists in these areas and empower them to continue to use these online skills and tools to promote their practices.

Artist Shelley Engwirda said the positivity of the group had been inspirational.

“In particular our mentors Wanda and Julie, gave me the confidence to continue my arts practice at a time when we are all trying to navigate our “new” future,” she said.

“Since the residency, I have been inspired to exhibit in a local gallery and have applied to run workshops on the Keppel Coast in 2021.

Another participant, Nicole Jakins said the program enabled her to focus on creating ephemeral-based meditative works, and to think beyond the scope of her usual arts practice.

“This time of experimentation has informed my sculptural work which is currently on display at the Bundaberg Regional Gallery as part of the FOUND Studio Dog exhibition,” she said.

“The residency challenged the way I currently approach sculpting, opened up my mind to new ways of producing experimental forms, and cemented my long-term interests in nature and sustainability.”

Bundaberg musician and author Matthew Barker said he enjoyed his residency with CQRASN.

“It was inspiring to talk to and watch other artists in the region embracing their creativity through these challenging times,” he said.

“The residency benefitted my project greatly and I look forward to releasing ‘The Grey Cloud’ very soon.”

The program will culminate with an cross regional arts festival in June 2021.

The list of the participating artists were: Noel Brady, Karen Andersen, Shelley Ergwirda, Tracey Hewitt, Rachel Koster, Melissa Peacock, Keemon Williams, Jodie Van der Wettering, Katina Olsen, Peta LLoyd, Nicole Jakins, Olivia Everitt, Nanette Balchin, Will Andersen, Kristel Kelly, Kara Day, Felicity Chapman, Anna NIcholson, Maree Purnell, Janelle Evans, Matthew Barker, Sarah Larsen, Lisa Roebig - Holmes, Ruby Come Back-Jayne and Pablo Centurion, Raelene Bock, Michelle Grey, Rebecca Collis and Hilary Coulter.