Serge’s Column

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Hello all,

This month, I’d like to say a few things about art and culture in our village.

A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of unveiling a beautiful new mural, titled The Tree of Life, at the St Kilda Park Primary School. The tree featured in the work is wonderful. It was made by all the students in Grades 3 and 4, with a bit of help from ceramic artist Salvatori Lolicato and their art teacher Janita.

It was so exciting to see the pleasure in the eyes of the kids when they saw their work on permanent display at their school, for all to see.  This confirmed in my mind the importance of art – not just for the few, but for all. As the German artist, Josef Beuys, said: “Everyone is an artist.”  And in a creative place like St Kilda, this is even truer.

But this is not just about visual art. As we were working on our 2012/13 budget over the last few weeks, I was heartened by the level of interest, passion and commitment from our art community.

First, as the chair of the Cultural Development Grants Committee, we got to look at a variety of very good applications. It was quite difficult to choose this year. We picked nineteen projects and spent the whole $134,000 that we had in our budget.

Dance, performance, visual arts, music, local history and theatre projects were all represented.

After the success of Joseph Sherman’s last project, Tempest, last year, I am looking forward to his new work, The Caucasian Chalk Circle. I am also looking forward to the next stage of local artist Mary Lou Pavlovic’s Telstra Wall in Inkerman Street.

One of the projects that attracted the most discussions during the committee’s deliberations was the musical Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Deserts – an “immersive food musical” by Present Tense, which will be staged at Theatre Works in November this year. Before Masterchef, there was Margaret Fulton!!

Many important organizations in our city, such as Red Stitch, Theatre Works, Melba Recordings, the National Theatre and many others, are suffering from cutbacks by other agencies and increased expenses. I am very pleased that the Council is developing a policy that will help arts organizations to get more funding, so as to contribute in giving them a more secure future. Council already has an agreement in place with Linden Gallery and Gasworks.

Council cannot help everyone, but I feel it is important that we find ways to encourage all parts of our community to get involved and change financially.

It’s good to see that some of the artists who used to live in St Kilda, and moved north of the river, are coming back to our neighbourhood. The Shakespeare Grove Artists Studios, run by Council, are full and are very much in demand.

And they are producing great work. I liked the exhibition of their art that was held at the Town Hall. It was a great success, too, which is great to see. The diversity was really interesting: ages, scale, materials, techniques and subject matter. We need more studios in St Kilda, so that more artists can be encouraged to come back here.

I grew up in France, where art is a very important part of cultural life and where successive governments keep encouraging artists to improve the quality of their art. Perhaps that’s why I think it’s important that it be done here, too.

Who can ignore André Malraux, one of France’s greatest writers and Minister of Culture under Charles De Gaulle, when he said: “Culture is the sum of all the forms of art, of love, and of thought, which, in the course or centuries, have enabled man to be less enslaved.”

There is a lot of thinking to do on the subject. As always, feel free to write to me and let me know your thoughts and if you have any good ideas worth considering.

Until next month.

Serge Thomann

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