Located at the end of busy High Street, Northcote lies Arts Project Australia – a non-profit organisation that strives to be a centre of excellence, supporting artists living with intellectual disabilities. Arts Project Australia advocates for the inclusion of its artists within contemporary art practice by promoting their work, running specialist classes, helping with their CVS and biographies, managing the selling and storage of artwork, and holding exhibitions in their Northcote gallery. Arts Project welcomes artists of all ages, skill ability, and experience. However, places in the programs are limited, so applicants may be put on a waiting list. Arts Project is a TAC and NDIS provider, so artists are able to use the programs with funding from their TAC or NDIS plans.
Arts Project Australia was founded in 1974 by Myra Hilgendorf, with the dream to ensure that all artists are given the same opportunities and that all artwork are given the same respect and dignity as any other. Currently, more than 130 artists make full time use of the studio programs.
The weekday professional program runs from 9:30-3:30 every weekday. These sessions provide a safe and welcoming studio for the artists to reach their full potential, supported by qualified artist staff. The artists are welcome to work in a variety of mediums, provided with high quality materials.
The program involves painting and drawing as the foundation subjects. Specialist programs include printmaking, ceramics, digital art, extended practice and professional practice. This really gives the artists an opportunity to try everything, and find which stream they enjoy and excel in most.
The Saturday program is a two hour session, either in the morning or afternoon, and is perfect for those who want to explore their creativity for a couple of hours on the weekend. It is also ideal for young artists, such as students, who may be thinking about art as a career. The minimum age for the Saturday program is 16.
At least once a year, artists have folio reviews with the staff, who choose which artworks will be kept for sale and exhibitions in the gallery stockroom. This also gives the artists guidance on what to improve on, which of their works is most successful, and which direction to take their work. Once the work is complete, the artist holds all rights, and all work that is to be exhibited or sold is carefully documented, including professional photographs. Arts Project Australia protects image rights of the artists, so will charge for any use of the artists’ work in external documentation.
Every year, there are at least 13 solo exhibitions in which artists may show their work. Artists are given at least one opportunity every year to exhibit. Many of the artists exhibit more, both in the gallery, and externally, and their work can also be entered into appropriate awards and prizes. Every year, two of the exhibitions are curated by nationally and internationally recognised curators.
The gallery recently showed two coinciding exhibitions: Under Pressure and Sometimes Drawing can be dark and disturbed. Under pressure was a group show, curated by staff artist, Yoshe Gillespie, showcasing the work of Arts Project printmakers. It explored the metaphorical and physical ‘pressure’ of the printmaking process. The artists implemented a range of techniques and approaches to printmaking, delving into a range of themes, styles and aesthetics. The show was hung in a salon style, bringing the artists together as a collective, regardless of their difference in styles and techniques.
Sometimes Drawing can be Dark and Disturbed was Adrian Lazzaro’s first solo show at Arts Project Australia. Lazzaro works across a range of mediums – drawing, painting, soft sculpture and digital art. The show explored the images that infiltrate Lazzaro’s thoughts and practice – wrestlers, vampires, erotica, imaginary figures and clowns. The entire body of work carries both physical and metaphorical darkness, sinister themes and messages that are delivered in humour.
As well as gallery exhibitions, the artists of Arts Project Australia participate in the contemporary art world in many ways. In 2016, Arts Project joined a three way collaboration with the National Gallery of Victoria and Third Drawer Down, in Australiana – a collection of functional art products devoted to iconic Australian landmarks, landscapes, celebrities and symbols. The collaboration featured 6 Arts Project artists, including Lisa Reid, Cathy Staughton, Julian Martin, Patrick Francis, Valerio Ciccone and Peter Ben. The collection launched in January 2016 by NGV director, Tony Ellwood at the NGV store in the Melbourne CBD, followed by a six month run in the design store.
In October 2016, Arts Project artist and illustrator, Josef Power launched his book A Place to Call Home. The book follows the journey of a young boy asking various animals to tell him about their home, as he searches for his own. The boy then meets a woman in a beautiful garden, and welcomes him in to her home, so it becomes his too. The story was inspired by his own story of being adopted from an orphanage in Paraguay by a young Australian couple. The book was published by Power’s mother, and written by freelance writer, Jessica Redman. All proceeds from the sales of the book go back to Arts Project Australia.
Arts Project Australia is an exceptional organisation, and has been rightly recognised, winning the 2016 Outstanding Organisation HESTA Award. In the 2016/17 financial year, Arts Project Australia exhibited 570 artworks in the Northcote gallery and in external galleries. 260 artworks are currently on lease in organisations around Melbourne.
As a registered charity, Arts Project Australia accepts donations, which are tax deductable $2 and above and regular donation and bequest programs are described and explained on their website. Arts Project also collects additional funds from artist’s fees, sales, grants and philanthropists, and foundations.
Upcoming this week includes the opening of the Chris O’Brien’s solo exhibition, Mayor of the Town as well as group show, Tethered to the Site: The Archive of Memory. Click here for more info!
Arts Project Australia
The gallery is open 9-5 Weekdays
The office is open 9-5 weekends
24 High St, Northcote
Feature Image Credit: Arts Project Facebook Page