We Are Here (WAH)

In September 2011, NAVA presented a national symposium dedicated to Artist Run Initiatives (ARIs) in partnership with Firstdraft.

We Are Here logo


Artist Run Initiatives are the first base for emerging artists to establish their professional careers. ARIs enable collaboration and the presentation of work, they encourage artists working in hybrid practices and facilitate new skills that range from writing, curating and initiating new projects to painting walls, managing budgets and learning about OH&S.

1-4 September 2011 NAVA and Firstdraft presented WAH: We Are Here

  • Official launch at Firstdraft Depot
  • The commissioning of 10 emerging artists for the exhibition ‘The feeling will pass’ at Firstdraft Gallery
  • Two-day symposium with over 40 speakers and 150 national and international artists, curators, writers at FraserStudios
  • A professional development workshop at Customs House
  • A multi-venue night time events program supporting musicians, live art performers and creating a space for project development at Serial Space and PACT: centre for emerging artists


The feeling will pass...

Hossein Ghaemi 'The OOO in Who', 2011, performance at 'Church on Chalmers'

Hossein Ghaemi 'The OOO in Who', 2011, performance at 'Church on Chalmers'

The feeling will pass explored the capacity of ephemeral, site specific and live works to respond dynamically to contemporary social, cultural and political binds. The space where enquiry begins. Exhibition at Firstdraft 1-11 September 2011 featuring Blood & Thunder, Cake Industries, Hossein Ghaemi, Michaela Gleave, Rachael Haynes, Alice Lang, Sebastian Moody, Carl Scrase and Collaborators.


The Business of Coming Together

Brianna Munting, WAH

2 September 2011Customs House, Circular Quay

Three sessions with moderated panels of guest speakers followed by roundtable discussions, presented by NAVA and Underbelly Arts and funded through Arts NSW.

Session 1: Business Models

Are you a not for profit organisation? Are you a partnership? Are you a group with your own ABNs working together on a project? Are you a collective with specific needs and no idea where to start? This session explored the various business models available to a collective and looked at the pros and cons of each to help you work out what is right for you. Panel Speakers included Kelly Robson from Gaffa, Imogen Semmler and Michael Huxley (thanks to Museums and Galleries NSW).

Session 2: The Business of Collaborating

Who is in charge of what in your collective? How do you share ideas? What do large bodies such as local councils or arts organisations expect from you with a commission or contract? This session explored the day to day requirements of how you run as a collective, covering structure, legal issues such as copyright, IP and contracting to external parties. Speakers included representatives from Performance Space, Brown Council and 107 Projects.

Session 3: Money Money Money

Beyond the three tiers of government how else do you fund your collective? This session examined various models of fundraising from membership to crowd funding, from philanthropy to going it alone. Speakers included members of Field Theory, Red Room and The Red Rattler Theatre. The Roundtables for this session also featured representatives from local, state and federal funding bodies.

Symposium - 1

Shifts in Contemporary Art

Audience at WAH

Photo: Kernow Craig

3 September 2011Fraser Street Studios, Chippendale

The WAH Symposium was structured around the role of ARIs and independent spaces in the Australian arts ecology and explored the ideas of future modeling for ARIs, concepts of hybridity and exchange, radicality and experimentation and investigating the potential for a national ARI network in Australia.

Session 1: Future/History?

This session looks at how artists have modelled ARIs, how they measure their successes and failures, and whether this shifts as social, political and commercial priorities change.

Speakers: Brianna Munting (Chair), Dr Alex Gawronski, Channon Goodwin, Din Heagney, Dr Jacqueline Millner, Elvis Richardson

Session 2: Roundtables1. Do I write, speak, type for love or fear? Art criticism

Does criticism exist in ARIs? Do we critique our peers or get trapped in wanting to only support them? How is art criticism enacted in ARIs and is it shifting in language, relevance and possibility given the implications of new technologies? Facilitator: Phip Murray

2. Starting Young. Building Audiences

This session will explore the ways in which ARIs can encourage tertiary and secondary visitation. Where does a love of art begin? Does it come to us early or later in life? How do we foster a relationship with the languages of contemporary practice? Facilitator: Claire Mooney

3. Do curators exist? New directions in exhibiting practices in Australia.

Artist lead organisations blur the idea of curating, implicitly destablising the defined roles of Artist and Curator that exist in most institutional contexts. So where does this leave curators in an ARI context? What is ‘innovative’ curating and where is it happening? Facilitator: Anneke Jaspers

4. How do we really engage communities? Are notions of difference explored by ARIs?

How do we engage communities in contemporary art? ARIs are the conduit for emerging artists as they are an integral part of the traditional studio - gallery career trajectory. However, how accessible are these spaces given the geographical, cultural, social and physical locations and communities of ARIs? Facilitator: Lisa Havilah

Session 3: International Keynote

Exchange and Hybridity
Artist Run Initiatives typically thrive within a DIY culture, changing or ending so their Directors can concentrate on their artistic practice. In light of this, what can intercultural and interdisciplinary dialogue bring to ARIs, and what can Australia bring internationally? This discussion was centred on the significance of artist-to-artist exchange as it exists outside of the mediation of cultural institutions and broader affects this has on ARIs. Speakers: Keynote:Lois Keidan, Daniel Brine (Chair), Reza Afisina, Kelli McCluskey, Willoh S Weiland.

Symposium - 2

Shifts in Contemporary Art

Audience at WAH

4 September 2011Fraser Street Studios, Chippendale

Session 1: Roundtables1. How do we measure the success of an ARI?

Does longevity equal success for an artist run initiative? Are all long-running ARIs institutionalised and when and where does the ARI term start to be questioned? Is it ever? Facilitator: Scot Cotterell

2. Career trajectories

The lack of curatorial or commercial agendas that ARIs provide can draw established artists wishing to eschew the agendas of larger organisations. Should ARIs be a space for an emerging generation of artists or should the focus lie with experimentation, independence and autonomy? Facilitator: Lionel Bawden

3. Space/Not space

Do nomadic, project based, or public/site specific focused ARIs exist? Should we be looking to this model as a more sustainable option for inner city artists or is a focus on utilising empty spaces worth it? Do artists have the right to occupy cities and how is this right enacted? Facilitator: Brigid Noone

4. Money

Everyone wants it, and no-one ever seems to have enough. When funders say no, rents go up and energy wanes, what strategies can ARIs use to gain support? Can corporate partnerships, philanthropy or crowd-funding provide an answer? How can the necessary relationships be maintained with changing leadership? Facilitator: Field Theory

Session 2: Connectivity - defining, developing and fostering a growing ‘Artist-Run Initiative’ sector in Australia.

Does collegiality bring us closer together? Do our differences become the spaces of interest and dynamism? This session will focus on the benefits and issues of setting up national networks, the strength of including diverse voices and the role of collectivity in instigating change at all levels of society. It will explore the potential of expanding and supporting the ARI and independent sector in Australia, and the models and networks that have worked internationally across the globe. International keynote: Jonathan Middleton, Nicholas Tsoutas (Chair), Bek Conroy, Dr Blair French, Tamara Winikoff

Session 3: Radicality and Activism Panel Session

Are ARIs relevant in activist practices in Australia and internationally? Can the self-organisation of artists reinvent radicality and is it the role of emerging artists to reinvent the future of contemporary art and experimentation? This panel will investigate the complexities of politics, public funding and the commercialisation of radicality in ARIs and within the contemporary art landscape. Speakers: Zanny Begg (Chair), Jennifer Herd, Deborah Kelly, Jeff Khan, Nancy Mauro-Flude

Session 4: The Great Debate: That it is the role of emerging artists to be innovative, cutting-edge, experimental, groundbreaking and boundary-pushing.

Is it the responsibility of emerging artists to constantly break new ground? How does intergenerational dialogue operate critically? How do policy directions (developed outside the emerging artist community) affect the practice of emerging artists? Speakers: Frances Barrett, Edward Colless, Courtney Coombs, Dr Adam Geczy, Lisa Havilah, Luke Sinclair


WAH Advisory Committee

WAH banner

Scot Cotterell, Inflight (TAS)

Channon Goodwin, Boxcopy (QLD)

Nicholas Hudson Ellis, Crawl Inc. (VIC)

Cat Jones, Artistic Director PACT centre for emerging artists (NSW)

Georgie Meagher, Firstdraft Gallery (NSW)

Claire Mooney, Bus Projects (VIC)

Brianna Munting, NAVA


Logos NAVA, Firstdraft, Australia Council, VACS, Arts NSW, Copyright Agency Cultural Fund, City of Sydney, The Freedman Foundation, Underbelly Arts, PACT, Serial Space, ARC, Sydney College of the Arts