In a few weeks time, the Castlemaine community and surrounds will come together for the biggest Arts Open event yet, and project manager Rob Jennings couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s looking fantastic because it’s a community run event, so it’s all run by artists themselves, plus myself. Everyone is really working hard at it themselves,” he beams. “The artists contacted me six years ago to help them out and I’ve been there ever since.”
Over two weekends in March (12-14 and 19-20) the event sees 148 artists spread their craft across 65 venues, celebrating the creativity and community that comes from Castlemaine, Newstead Maldon and Chewton.
As Rob tells me, there are around 400 professional artists in the region, and the festival is rapidly including more and more each year.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger. The first year we had 45 artists and the second year we had 65, now it’s ballooned out,” he says.
“So there’s 50 individual events and then about 12 group shows. We’ve got one at the Castlemaine Gaol, which is looking really good as there’s about 50 people exhibiting there – which is pretty good for a 150-odd year building. Every single cell is filled with artwork as well – it’s kind of kooky and fun.”
Part of its growth is thanks to the event being 100 per cent community run. There’s no “big names” calling the shots, it’s simply a team of locals passionate about their town, their craft and being able to showcase that to others.
“One of the other good things is because there are so many artists involved, it’s completely community run – there’s no one person running the show,” he says
“And so if someone has a really good idea they can just run with it and do it themselves. That’s why there’s so many great things happening at the festival because it’s completely organic and it’s not top heavy.”
Over the three years of the event running (the event itself is biannual), the most recent incarnation saw around 6,000 people brought to the town of Castlemaine. People came from all over; Sydney, Melbourne and from fellow regional towns near the region, all absorbing the diverse array of artworks on display each year.
“We wanted to cover all bases with the type of artwork, we didn’t want it to just be sculptural or just be contemporary artworks or traditional. We wanted to make sure the art covered stuff for men, older people, textile fans and everyone else in between. We wanted everyone to be enthusiastic and no one to be dragging their feet – the idea is that everyone can have some fun,” Rob says.
“There’s people there that are some of Australia’s most famous living artists and they sell their pieces for tens of thousands of dollars and there’s other people that sell their pieces for $100.”
With the diversity hanging on each wall also comes the chance to understand the meaning behind each work. There are several opportunities to interact and “meet and greet” many of the artists on show. A community bus will be running tours through the region (for $15) offering an insight into the town itself and the artists viewers are about to see. There will also be such events as a life drawing class at Run Rabbit, Run cafe. When Rob says there’s something for everyone, he truly means it.
Arts Open also runs in sync with the Castlemaine Fringe Festival, so the town truly comes alive across the two weekends. If you haven’t been to Castlemaine, or perhaps you’re well acquainted, this is one of the best ways to see it.
“It’s a great thriving community with music and art everywhere; we’re going to have bands on the street, in front of cafes and everywhere. It’ll be heaps of fun,” Rob says.
For more information on artists or the event itself, please visit http://www.artsopen.com.au/.
Image: Eliza Jane Gilchrist, ‘Outbreak’
Written by Amanda Sherring
When & Where: Various locations, Castlemaine – March 12-14 & 19-20