Art, Agency, Action: Sydney

A social change forum for artists and activists to discuss models for change and strategies for the future of our arts ecology, held at Firstdraft Gallery.

Art, Agency, Action was a public event to connect social movement makers across areas of visual arts and social practice to exchange models, ideas and methodologies for taking agency and making change.

This was a participatory forum; and the discussion was led by short presentations from our key speakers around their own experience, creative projects and models of practice to facilitate dialogue and action with attendees: artists, producers and curators.

Art, Agency, Action is about coming together and fostering community action within the arts and to develop imaginings of our future. The actions and ideas developed will contribute to the 2018 strategy for the arts and the NAVA summit.

Speakers included:

  • Michelle Newton, Deputy Director, Artspace
  • Amala Groom, Artist & NAVA Board Member
  • Liam Benson, Artist
  • Clare Cooper, Frontyard
  • Bek Conroy/Sarah Chisholm, Money Laundering Ladiez/A Very Beautiful Laundrette

Introduction from NAVA Deputy Director, Brianna Munting, and facilitated by Firstdraft Director, Katie Winten.

The forum was recorded live at Firstdraft Gallery.

Listen back to the live recording of the discussion here:


Michelle Newton, Artspace

As the Deputy Director of Artspace, Michelle Newton works as a producer to support the commissioning of contemporary art projects. Prior to this she was the General Manager, Grantpirrie Gallery; worked in leadership roles at Jilamara Arts, Tiwi Islands and Jirrawun Arts, East Kimberley; and as the Photo Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. In 2010 she co-curated, with Alexie Glass-Kantor, No Name Station, an international cultural exchange and exhibition project for Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne and Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the College of Fine Arts, UNSW and a Graduate Certificate in Business from Curtin University of Technology.

Amala Groom, Artist
Amala Groom is a Wiradjuri artist whose practice is informed by, and reflects, First Nations methodologies, epistemologies and ways of being. Her work, as a form of passionate activism, delivers insightful commentary on contemporary society, politics and race relations. Articulated across diverse media, Groom’s work seeks to subvert and unsettle Western mythology and iconography in order to enunciate Aboriginal stories, practices and histories. Current and upcoming group shows include Moving Histories Future Projections, a dLux Media Arts exhibition toured by Museum & Galleries of NSW, curated by Kelly Doley and Di Smith and System of Objects, National Art School (NAS) curated by Jaime Tsai & Mikaela Rodwell. Groom is a Director on the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) Board.

Liam Benson, Artist

Liam Benson is a multi disciplinary artist whose practice incorporates performance, photography, video and textiles. Benson’s work discusses gender, race and culture by subverting entrenched ideologies, popular iconography, art and media language.
Liam’s practice is informed through working collaboratively with diverse communities through an ongoing conversation about how culture, sub-culture and identity interrelate and evolve.

Liam Benson has been exhibiting and performing nationally and internationally since 2003 and is represented by Artereal Gallery in Sydney. His works are held in significant public and private collections including Artbank, the Art Gallery of South Australia and Western Sydney University.
Liam has been awarded The Champions of the West Arts Grant 2014, The Josaphine Ulrich and Win Schubert Photography award 2013, The Hawkesbury Art Award 2012, the Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award 2011, and the Contemporary Award category of the Fishers Ghost Art Award 2011.

Clare Cooper, Frontyard

Clare Cooper is a designer, musician, organiser and teacher. She co-founded Frontyard (2016), Arts Futuring (2015), Fictions futuring group (2017), the NOW now festival of experimental music and film (2001), and two large improvising ensembles Splinter Orchestra (Sydney, 2001) and Splitter Orchester (2009). Cooper is keen on community, constructive conversation and collectively inhabiting futures to come up with creative, informed and practical next steps.

Money Laundering Ladiez/A Very Beautiful Laundrette, Bek Conroy & Sarah Chisholm
Using a combination of mimetic strategies and insider trading, this project intends to bring the artistic labouring body into literal contact with finance capitalism by experimenting with the business model of the Laundromat.
A Very Beautiful Laundromat is essentially an artist run laundromat whose main mission is to provide flexible employment for artists when they are in between gigs; the time when you have just come off a big gig, or about to go overseas for a residency or development—the laundromat will provide the artist with paid work. It is designed to preference their main gig as an artist, and provide back up income and support for them when they are needing some time out. When they just want to pay the rent, and do some mindfulness hands on laundry.

Introduction from NAVA Deputy Director, Brianna Munting, and facilitated by Firstdraft.

This event will facilitate discussion and conversation, and a live recording of the forum will be available on our website.

art, agency, action sydney

Photography: Campbell Henderson

art, agency, action sydney

Speakers (L-R): Clare Cooper (Frontyard), Liam Benson (Artist), Amala Groom (Artist & Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Elected Representative, NAVA Board), Sarah Bird (Money Laundering Ladiez), Michelle Newtown (Deputy Director, Artspace), Katie Winten (Facilitator and Firstdraft Director), Brianna Munting (NAVA Co-Executive Director). Photography: Campbell Henderson

art, agency, action sydney

Guest Speaker: Peter White, First People's Cultural and Creative Development Advisor. Photography: Campbell Henderson.

art, agency, action sydney

Photography: Campbell Henderson.

art, agency, action sydney

Clare Cooper explaining Frontyard community arts space in Marrickville. Photography Campbell Henderson.

Art, Agency, Action: Sydney