Regional Centre of Culture announces 36 arts projects bound for Bendigo and surrounds in 2018

Imagine Bendigo’s iconic poppet head atop its hill in Rosalind Park.

Now imagine it encased in material. Lights, images and video are projected onto the skin. 

Aerial artists dangle from the structure while performers recreate for Bendigo stories from the city’s past.

The daring concept from company ACT Natimuk is set to become reality in October, one of a suite of arts projects yesterday announced as part of the Regional Centre for Culture.

The year-long calendar of events was first announced in February, part of the Victorian government’s Creative State arts strategy.

The $1 million grants program attracted about 100 submissions, with 36 applicants successful.

The two largest commissions, of which Poppet was one, went to artists whose work will go on show in the heart of Bendigo. Clunes-based artists Ken Evans and Rebecca Russell were granted $260,000 to create outdoor performance Demolish.

Over two weekends, performers will explore the concept of “the upside-down landscape”, inviting Bendigo audiences to an as-yet unnamed space to watch on as a purpose-build structure is gradually destroyed.

It was a work Ms Russell said would “not sit comfortably” with some audience members. 

“Bendigo is undergoing a massive era of development, and we often don’t stop and look at demolition,” she said. 

Regional Centre for Culture producer Jo Porter said making people question their beliefs about art and their community was part of the the program’s goals. 

“It’s a good opportunity to get people to go, ‘huh?’,” she said.

It would not only encourage metropolitan arts audiences to visit regional Victoria, but also lure them into smaller towns, several of which will also benefit from yesterday’s funding announcement.

Newstead artists will create a walking tour of the town inspired by the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. Maryborough will collect and display an exhibition of wedding photography collected over five decades. In Creswick, a sound installation will feature the voices of eight elderly community members recounting their memories of their twenties. 

Mount Alexander mayor Bronwen Machin said the program was a boon for both creatives and those uninitiated in the arts.  

“This investment will help our artists and our creative organisations take their work to new levels and reach new audiences.

“At the same time, all of our local residents will get the chance to experience new wonders on their doorstep and learn more about the cultural treasures throughout the region.

“We’re going to be singing in the streets and dancing.”

Community involvement welcomed

Regional Centre for Culture organisers have eschewed the common criticism that art is for only an elite few by putting works into the public space and inviting all people to take part.

The state government-funded program begins in Rosalind Park on Valentine’s Day next year with Love Letters to the Heart of Victoria. The event will see community members asked to pen correspondence to their hometown. 

The letter-writing theme continues in Lisa D’Onofrio’s project; the Castlemaine woman will ask people incarcerated in the region’s prisons to record their stories in letters that will form the basis of a new theatrical work.

Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan said the cultural initiative was a chance for children and arts enthusiasts to get involved, not just professionals. 

“Together, we’ll put on quite a show, one that will attract visitors from near and far and leave a lasting legacy for our communities,” the MP said. 

Rachel Buckley from the Dunolly Theatre Company was the excited  recipient of $2000, which her group will use to stage a classical music festival over the Queen’s Birthday weekend. 

Music from the time of the goldfields would feature in the event, she said, explaining her hope the festival would attract visitors to her central Victorian town.