December 17, 2020 By Ikumi Cooray
CAS 2020: The Year in Review
…And what a year it has been!
We kicked off 2020 with Heating Up, a group exhibition curated by Larra Juab that extended the Midsumma Festival vibe with work from local LGBTQIA+ artists. In her interview with CAS in February, Larra said:
‘I cannot wait to see more exhibitions that explore one’s identity and feeling of belonging. These topics are just so powerful and important to be discussed and be in the space in Dandenong or anywhere else really. We are one of the most culturally diverse suburbs in Victoria so we need to take this chance to talk about soulful topics’.
As predicted, we did indeed go on to hold more exhibitions that explored identity, belonging and other soulful topics throughout the year!
After Heating Up, we exhibited Riding the Cotton Unicorn, a group show that aimed to challenge society’s patriarchal period stigma by sharing honest menstrual experiences of the artists. Participating artists were invited to explore their own personal, emotional, visceral, physical and political experiences of their own menstrual cycles in the creation of their work. Curated by Natalie Artis, the exhibition had a short and sweet stint in the physical gallery space before we had to move it online.
Like many other organisations, we worked quickly to adapt to the changes that the pandemic brought on. Although we had never put on a digital exhibition before, we put our brains and diverse skillset together to deliver Riding the Cotton Unicorn across our website, Facebook and Instagram. The beauty of the digital exhibition is that you can still go back and view the works online now.
Once we got the hang of online exhibitions and events, we were unstoppable!
In June, our workshops team put on Crafternoon Workshops, a 6-week series that kept us engaged and connected during lockdown, while learning new arts and crafts skills from a stellar line up of talented artists. Among others, Taya Shania taught us how to use the Loomis technique for portraiture, which you can learn more about here and Ciara Lynch taught us how to make a scrunchie, which you can learn more about here.
Then it was time for our second ever online exhibition, RIOT! Against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and global conversations about anti-racism and social justice, the exhibition carved out a space for our artists and the audience to explore various themes such as philosophy, social issues, politics, spirituality and religion, while seeking to elevate voices that are typically pushed to the margins.
Running alongside RIOT! was our 6-week artist conversation series, Going Solo. We heard from a range of artists with different backgrounds and practices who gave us their advice on how to prepare for your first solo exhibition. While giving us practical tips and tricks, they also reminded us to stay true to ourselves, to be brave and vulnerable, and not to lose faith when applications are rejected.
As the flowers bloomed in Spring, we launched Flora – A digital exhibition celebrating native flora and the environment whilst exploring themes of belonging, acknowledgment, home, culture, passage and identity. Artists reflected on their relationship and memories with nature and presented their work via our website, Facebook and Instagram. Multidisciplinary artist Belle Formica also held a workshop in which she taught us how to make flora/flower crowns.
Finally, we closed out our exhibition schedule for the year with Unwrapping Our Rainbow Flag, a celebration of queer identity, culture and stories that formed part of the City of Greater Dandenong’s Unwrapped Festival. Using both visual and written art forms, LGBTQIA+ artists were invited to respond to prompts addressing misconceptions about their gender/sexuality, joyful memories about their gender/sexuality and their coming out stories.
Make sure you check out our Instagram, Facebook and website to go back and view the online exhibitions and workshops mentioned as well as interviews with the artists, statements from curators and exhibition coordinators, and much more!
The team at CAS would like to give a huge thanks to everyone who has supported us and connected with us this year. Thank you to all the artists who shared their stories and knowledge and exhibited their work, thank you to everyone who joined a workshop, tuned into an Instagram live, viewed our online exhibitions and helped us build an even stronger creative community despite the challenges that this year has presented.
We hope you have a safe and restful festive season and we look forward to more art-making, storytelling, teaching, learning, discussing and having fun in 2021!