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The way of the future

Writing artwork stories, cutting out labels, painting walls, measuring and hanging every single piece of artwork and writing exhibition summaries are the way of the future for artists...

It fills us with pride at UMI Arts that our Exhibition Ready program has gained such momentum since its humble beginnings in 2008 that the program is now booked into 2016.

The number of Indigenous artists engaged in the program is the real evidence that Exhibition Ready is achieving its aims. Of our extensive membership of over 700 Indigenous artists, 40 per cent identify visual arts and crafts as their chosen fields, with 20 per cent of these artists now having successfully completed the program.

A little bit of the program’s history. The idea came about after much discussion and consultation with UMI Arts members and communities about the kind of support Indigenous artists in the Cairns region needed most. Bear in mind a LOT of talking had to be done when you picture the geographical area we cover is three times the size of the United Kingdom. (UMI Arts supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals with blood-line connection to the Kennedy and Leichhardt electorate areas.)

In response to the many thoughts, questions and issues raised, the Exhibition Ready program was developed with the realisation that gone were the days when an artist dropped off their selected works at the gallery and attended the exhibition opening. Armed with this knowledge, in 2008 Joey Laifoo became our very first participant. Move forward to 2014, when artists are now more hands-on than ever… and it shows.

Exhibition Ready takes artists through the ‘nuts and bolts’ of staging an exhibition. This entails much hands-on work for the artists, including writing exhibition summaries, compiling CV’s and physically installing their art works. The program culminates in a six-week long exhibition for each artist at UMI Arts’ galleries. We have a very low commission rate, with the majority of sales going directly to the artist and a small portion being reinvested into UMI Arts members’ programs.

Some major outcomes of Exhibition Ready are:

  • Artists having the ability to prepare and present their own exhibitions
  • Further annual exhibiting opportunities, including  Pathways and the curated touring exhibition Freshwater Saltwater
  • Becoming part of UMI Arts Alumni Artists Program.

Now in its seventh year, Exhibition Ready would be regarded by most as a mature program, yet it is still experiencing a rapid growth spurt. (Picture a third grader growing at the rate of a teenager!) Like most new ventures, there have been ups, downs and several ‘upside-downs’ over the past seven years.  What started as an opportunity for our members to exhibit their works when other spaces were unavailable has been transformed into an extensive visual arts program with partnerships, major exhibiting outcomes and an Alumni program.

As the UMI Arts’ Gallery curator has worked with each artist and assessed their needs, so the Exhibition Ready program has expanded, assisting not only emerging artists, but artists at all stages of their careers. As a consequence, in early 2013 UMI Arts initiated the UMI Arts Alumni Artists Program. Exhibition Ready is a precursor to this program which continues to support artists throughout their careers.

An important measure of the program’s success is that we regularly hear that Exhibition Ready gives our artists pride in their abilities and the quality of their work, and that their participation in the program has really opened their eyes to the possibility of having successful careers as artists.

We want other artists from the area to see this and say, hey, I can do it too. There are many more artists in each of our communities who might be afraid or not know how to show their work, but we want them to see that it can be done and they can do it too.  Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) member artist, Ms Geraldine Yorke, 2012

I love art. It’s something I cannot live without and it is a part of me.  19-year old UMI Arts member artist, Nickeema Williams, 2013

We are humbled each time something happens, but my proudest moment would have to be the opening of my first solo exhibition at UMI Arts in Cairns. It is something I will never forget.  UMI Arts member artist and owner/operator of Aboriginal Steel Art, Wayne McGinness, 2013.

Danelle Nicol is the Communications & Marketing Manager at UMI Arts. UMI Arts is the peak Indigenous arts and cultural organisation for Far North Queensland. Danelle joined UMI Arts in 2010 as the Retail and Administration officer. In January 2013, she moved into her current position.  Danelle is a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women whose heritage is Erub, Ugar and the Birri-Gubba nation.





Feature image from UMI Arts website.