Some people think the arts are not for them; that they’re about opera or ballet or paintings other folk like to hang on their walls. From my travels around Queensland as Minister for the Arts this year I can confidently vouch for arts and culture being a whole lot more than that.

Art and culture are all around us every day. From the design of our morning coffee or tea cup and the clothes we wear each day to the books and magazines we read and the music we hear at the local shopping centre; someone somewhere had to get creative so those things could be produced for the rest of us to use, admire and enjoy.

As I visit communities throughout Queensland, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard some great live music, read a good book or even had a go at being creative themselves. Recent research told us nine in 10 Queenslanders attended or participated in the arts in 2009-2010, and 17 per cent of Queenslanders volunteered in the arts.

I am repeatedly impressed by the diversity and quality of arts and cultural activity going on all around our state, and its capacity to touch hearts, stimulate minds, and enrich lives: from the Choir of Unheard Voices made up of people experiencing mental illness in Mackay to one of the world’s great orchestras,  the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, performing  at QPAC in Brisbane, and simulcast to reach from Mt Isa to Gladstone.

Five years on from the opening of the refurbished State Library of Queensland and the new Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), there have been a staggering 18 million visits to the Cultural Centre, South Bank.

Our annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair has resulted in more than $1.7 million worth of artwork sales, benefiting artists and their communities, and there has been more than $4.1 million direct tourism expenditure in the local Cairns economy.

In 2011 the Queensland and Australian Governments are supporting creative arts recovery programs in three of the communities worst-affected during our Summer of Disasters. Over the next three years this partnership will also invest in Rockhampton as one of two centres of culture and creativity in Australia.

Of course it’s no secret that Queensland has become a hive of creative activity. The rest of the world has begun to take notice. Earlier this year, the Art Newspaper ranked the Queensland Art Gallery and GOMA as Australia’s most popular gallery and the 18th most attended art museum in the world.

In 2007, the music industry bible Billboard Magazine named Brisbane as one of the world’s top five contemporary music ‘hot spots’. This recognition reflects the lively local music scene that has produced the likes of Powderfinger, the Go Betweens, the Boat People and recent chart toppers Hungry Kids of Hungary and Washington. These and other talented artists provide the soundtracks to our lives.

So where to from here for arts and culture in Queensland? We want to hear from you. That is why we’re opening a conversation with Queenslanders about how government, business and the community can work together to build on the great cultural successes that you can read more about in the Creative Capital: Arts and Culture Strategic Direction for Queensland paper on the Arts Queensland website.

I hope you’ll join us in shaping the next stage of Queensland’s creative future.

The Honourable Rachel Nolan MP
Minister for Finance, Natural Resources and the Arts

Image:  Mariana Martin, Journey Music, Swell Sculpture Festival 2011.  Photo: Rowly Emmett