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Mining for art in regional Victoria

May 29, 2013

Dewi Cooke

A rock quarry transformed into an audiovisual arena; a nature strip reborn as a kinetic sculpture park.


Five Victorian towns will receive $350,000 each for year-long creative projects, part of a state government-backed initiative to bring art to communities of 1500 people or fewer.

It's art on a small, but deep, scale and is vested with the ''exciting, ineffable'' mandate to transform the communities of Dookie, Natimuk, Neerim South, Ouyen and Avoca, Regional Art Victoria's Esther Anatolitis said.

''It's things like transforming people's anticipation and participation in the arts, it's about the way those artistic projects generate volunteering, business activity, local trade, tourism, the identity of the town, local resilience, health and wellbeing,'' she said.


In the Goulburn Valley town of Dookie, an old granite quarry will be reimagined as an open-air performance space and a canvas for multimedia.

''It's just a beautiful environment,'' Dookie Arts' Leticia Harmer said of the quarry. ''You can't help but be inspired.''

In the Western District town of Natimuk, the money will go towards ''The Verj'', a gathering place filled with sculpture built from farm machinery, a symbol of the town's heritage as well as its evolution into something of an artists' community.

''There was a strong sense that there wasn't a really central space,'' award-winning animator and Natimuk local Dave Jones said. ''So that was the thing, to create a space that … gives a lot of people a lot of reasons to be there.''

It will be the first and possibly only time the Small Towns Transformation program will be rolled out, part of a 2011-12 Baillieu government budget commitment. No funding has been committed to continue the project beyond its pilot, although Regional Arts is hopeful. For those involved, however, the potential impact cannot be overestimated.


''It's going to keep our little town alive,'' Dookie's Mrs Harmer said. ''It's going to be huge.''