On Sunday 8 November, the first day of NAIDOC Week, Chrysalis Projects launched the first of its artist-led projects at Avid Reader Bookshop.
The mural project at Avid Reader Bookshop will be led by award-winning artist Vernon Ah Kee and involve a team of painters and technicians.
Bec Mac says the pair was motivated to act when COVID hit and her own work dried up overnight.
“I also knew that potentially all my peers and people working in the creative industries would be losing work overnight and particularly here in West End …so we came up with this plan in that first weekend as a rapid response to what we were seeing.
Bec has a background in arts media and placemaking, while Carmel Haugh was an artist who moved into arts policy and administration. Chrysalis is their passion project.
“I really believe in what we’ve got here in our creative economy, and I think that people need to understand how valuable that is,” Carmel said.
Bec and Carmel said they identified three things on that first COVID weekend: all artists will be out of work and the sector will lose its income, shops and businesses could shut down, and the vibrancy of the connection with the community would be affected. Their challenge was to find projects to employ and credit the arts workforce, energise the retail experience, and reconnect the community.
So, Chrysalis Projects was born.
“It’s about embracing the temporary: it’s adaptive; it’s agile; it’s flexible. The key premise is for ten creative projects and ten artists, matched with ten small businesses to create ten experiences as a rolling 12-month program – like a deconstructed festival,” Bec said.
And we all get to participate because the funding comes from us. Bec and Carmel’s vision is for a new model of philanthropy.
“Rather than top-down funding, philanthropy can be for everyone.”
“We’re trying to reverse the arts funding model. We’re trying to create artist-led economic stimulus projects, and we as a community, decide what we want in our community for creative public programming.”
“So”, Bec said, “welcome to the lab everybody, we’re calling it a pilot.”
Funds raised will pay for everyone involved in each project: the painters, riggers, designers, and writers.
Speaking about the mural project planned for the external walls of Avid Reader, Vernon said that he is not usually a public artist.
“But I realised that this is a year for stepping out of what’s comfortable and stepping out of what we know. And, if there are other people taking leaps of faith and showing that kind of courage nearly every day, then the least I can do is say, “let’s try this”.
“This project came to me with equal parts of desperation and passion. And in a strange way both of those are attractive.”
Vernon said that when he started out 20 years ago, it was a struggle to be sustainable.
“And this year, it’s easy for someone like me to say that there are a lot of artists who would have just given up because obviously, that’s what you have to do in a year like this. And then there will be some artists who would just battle through, and those are the artists who you want to stick by. Those are the artists who will be there no matter what. This is the kind of project that can grab those people and stand them on their feet, put brushes in their hands and give them a cup of tea and see what they do.”
Chrysalis is inviting supporters to become Patrons of Place, by making a tax-deductible donation to CHRYSALIS4101 via the Australian Cultural Fund. Your investment can be as little as $5, or up to $15,000 for a complete project.
“Over the next 12 months we’re seeking to raise $165,000,” Bec said.
As one participant at the launch observed, a lot of people are spending their overseas holiday saving on their homes, but the community is our home too, why not spend the money for the community?
The team has plans for three initial projects.
The Vernon Ah Kee mural at Avid Reader is the CHRYSALIS4101 flagship project. The project is a co-curated partnership with Fiona Stager and Kevin Guy of Avid Reader, the property owners, artist Vernon Ah Kee, and Josh Milani of Milani Gallery.
The Caravanserai’s Little Opera Corner aims to reimagine an operatic performance within the inner-city urban environment of West End and is a partnership with Opera Queensland and Caravanserai restaurant on the corner Dornoch Terrace and Hardgrave Road.
Circuslesque: Red Light Distancing will be part human art gallery, part sideshow, part performance art: an experimental physical theatre live art project directed by David Carberry in collaboration with The Sideshow West End. It will showcase our world-class local cabaret and circus artists.
You can contribute to CHRYSALIS via https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/chrysalis-01/
Follow the CHRYSALIS progress:
Facebook @CHRYSALIS Projects
Cover image supplied: Carmel Haugh, Fiona Stager, Kevin Guy, Vernon Ah Kee, Bec Mac