|Posted on October 5, 2012 at 10:40 AM|
Kickarts. The beginning.
On c.15March1992 I authored and placed a notice in the Cairns Post, calling for:
“PERSONS interested in supporting the formation of a locally based contemporary artists association which would; 1) Operate as an advocacy mechanism for the collective benefit of contemporary artists working in the Cairns and surrounding regions; 2) Focus on the creation of an innovative artist-run-initiative; 3) With a particular view to the establishment of a professionally operated printmaking and multi-media workshop. Please contact either Mr.Donald Coventry, Ph (070)316865 or Mr. Garry Andrews, artist, Ph (070) 545800.”
As a result of the subsequent meeting which was attended by thirteen interested supporters of the idea, regular meetings were held in Cairns and the groundswell which was soon to become Kickarts had started.
At the next meeting I was elected Chairman and other office bearers were elected including Ingrid Hoffman as Secretary. I moved that the new organisation was to be called Kickarts, and this was accepted unanimously by those present, who included Donald Coventry, Director of the Cairns Regional Gallery who put his support behind the new organisation. Whilst I wanted to start Kickarts with setting up of a printmaking facility, this idea was put aside, as I deferred to the wishes of the collective to hold an inaugural art exhibition. This idea took hold of the increasing number of members and ultimately manifested in the satirically entitled exhibition “The Fish John West Regrets” featuring contemporary work by eighteen regional artists, which was held at the then Gallery of Fine Art Cairns and district, from 6-27 August 1993. Funding was sought for the exhibition through Arts Queensland R.A.D.F. which enabled the appointment of a curator, Chris Downie, who worked with artists of the north, curating the exhibition which was a resounding success. A catalogue was produced with support of R.A.D.F and the Cairns Regional Gallery. Downie’s essay concluded with the comment “Kick Arts is an important development in the region and I am sure there will be important consequences that follow from this beginning.” The exhibition was coordinated by Annette Kadarchie, enthusiastically supported by Kickarts members, who even generated a concurrent “satellite” exhibition “Other Schools of Thought” with thirty three artists participating. TFJWR went by the tagline: “An exhibition of experimental work challenging the notions of what art is”. It certainly did that, generating much public debate as the flood of letters which followed the launch of the exhibition, to the editor of the Cairns post confirm. My involvement with Kickarts in the capacity of (foundation) chairman included the overseeing of the process of incorporation as a structured business entity.
I had achieved a successful career as an artist/teacher in Cairns: as between 1983-85 I had, with Cairns Tafe along with Thomas Vudrag, Anna Eglitis, Thanakupi and James Last, been directly involved in the setting up-achieving accredited academic certification, and the operation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art course. This manifested in “The Art Centre” located at the old Hanushes cordial factory in Cairns. At that time I was also active on the board of directors of Cairns Artists United’s Alfred St. Art Centre at Manunda .
After 1986 I had spent several years working in Sydney as a muralist and community artist with Public Art Squad; had painted the ABC Greentrain in Brisbane, and had returned to Cairns to teach again at the Tafe College ATSI Art program. When the Labor Goss government came to power in Queensland, they brought in Arts Queensland and an intention to support the arts in regional Queensland. That, combined with the new Cairns Regional Gallery had created a favourable environment for the consolidation of local artists into a pro-active organisation to benefit from the new developments. My vision for Kickarts was for a broad based artists collective/ artist- run- inititiative, which would realise all three points articulated in the Courier Mail notice of March 1992.
Kickarts was successful very quickly, and has continued to grow with the support of many artists and artsworkers to become a high profile successful regional Arts organisation,strongly supported by Arts Queensland, now known as Kickarts Contemporary Arts Limited. In 2004 moving into the Centre of Contemporary Arts building with Just Us Theatre Ensemble.
Over the last three decades, many artists have contributed to the ongoing development of the arts industry in Cairns and north Queensland. These include John Kibby (CAU), Ian Smith, Anna Eglitis, Vernon Ah Kee, Vaughan Rees, Nick Mills, Robert Munday (TAG) , Jude Marsland, Greg Adams, Sue Ryan to name a few who have been important contributors to the development of cultural life in Cairns and north Queensland.
Those who attended my announced meeting held at Graft’n’arts of the 27 March 1992 were myself, Kerry Eaton, Ingrid Hoffman, Joy Stewart, Julie Paulsen, Marina Muecke, Maree Liddell, Sabina Carney, Margot Grant, John Emerson, Jack Grant, Gail Brookes, Jude O’Connell and Carrie Bies.
As Kickarts celebrates 20 years of supporting visual arts in North Queensland during 2012,it is important that Kickarts acknowledges the key points that have been outlined here, as currently their webpage "Our history" reduces the history of Kickarts prior to 2004 to around twenty five words, which fall short of a fair description of KickArts history. In terms of the beginnings of Kickarts, this could be seen by individuals as misleading.
Kickarts was the collective of members which I brought together, to work together and "Focus on the creation of an innovative artist-run-initiative". Sounding familiar? I am rightfully the Founder of Kickarts, and I congratulate all those who have worked hard to promote the visual arts in the north, and I wish them every success for the future.
Foundation Chairman and life Member of Kickarts.
5 October 2012
Postscript update March, 2016: Thanks to Ingrid Hoffman for ammending the KickArts website to reflect my involvement.