Organisers of the River of Art are determined this year’s event will go ahead, despite changes required after the summer bushfires and COVID-19.
Now in its 15th year, the much-loved festival is a trail of arts events that run from Durras in the north to Bermagui in the south and holds an important place on the region’s events calendar.
In what now seems a prescient move, organisers changed this year’s date from May to September to allow artists and visitors to enjoy the colours and warmth of spring. Co-chairs Di Jay and Vicki Lascelles believe the additional breathing space will better help the whole region celebrate the festival’s very relevant theme of Resilience and Renewal.
“It really is an artist driven event,” said Ms Jay, “and we provide a platform for them to showcase their work”.
“We see ourselves contributing to the local economy by bringing in visitors as well as fulfilling our core role of supporting the arts.”
Ordinarily, the River of Art features about 120 events and garners up to 25,000 individual event attendances. There’ll be some changes for this year’s 10-day event.
“We were hoping to run a large public-art-focussed event on the riverside in Moruya, called River of Art after Dark, but we can’t take that risk now. We will save that for next year,” Ms Jay said.
“The River of Art 2020 will be a more intimate event, with open studios where people can see a potter get their hands dirty or watch a sculptor or painter at work and buy directly from that artist.
“We will also showcase videos of artists in their studios and the work they make in a new Arts Directory on our revamped website. Appointments can then be made directly with the artist to visit their studio.
“The always popular Art on Parade will see artists collaborate with local businesses to showcase their work in town shopfronts.”
Visitors to exhibitions will be limited to 25 at a time, to comply with COVID-19 restrictions and performance and music events will also be more intimate. Ms Jay said many local artists had suffered through the fires, and more than ever, the River of Art would support and promote their work.
“Artists have been influenced by what they saw and experienced and some say it has taken their work in a different direction, even if it’s just the colours they are using … it’s changed the way we look at the world,” Ms Jay said.
“Then came COVID and suddenly the place we were fleeing has become our safe place. Many of our artists have used this time to focus on their work.”
Eurobodalla Council has recognised and funded the festival as one of two hallmark events for the region. Council’s manager of events planning Liz Rankin said the River of Art helped drive economic development of the shire and had potential to become an event of national significance.
“To that end, we have a three year agreement with River of Art, providing it with $20,000 of financial assistance,” Ms Rankin said.
With no hard copy programs this year, the River of Art committee will launch a revamped website and online festival program in mid-August, leaving patrons plenty of planning time before the 18 to 27 September festival.
Above: River of Art Co-chair Di Jay says this year’s River of Art is suitably themed Resilience and Renewal.