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IN what seems to have been an exceedingly modest line-up of artists in the 2018 Australia Day honours lists, Canberra’s creators have punched well above their weight.Certainly, high-profile ballerina Lucette Aldous was honoured with the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) and actor John Gaden was granted an Order of Australia (OA), but a quick survey of the broader Australian honours shows disappointingly few arts names compared with other significant sectors of Australian society, suggesting that arts community organisations should get together and start nominating people.
Happily, that seems to have happened within the Canberra region and “CityNews” can identify four worthy recipients of honours this time round.
Of these four, the most public face belongs to community arts activist, playwright, and director Domenic Mico. Already the recipient of an Italian knighthood in 2005 for his services to the arts, Mico has received an Order of Australia medal (OAM).
Founding artistic director of the National Multicultural Festival, Mico has been a fiery and flamboyant participant in the Canberra arts scene since the 1970s. Other organisations he either founded or directed include Tuggeranong Arts Centre, the Backstage Performing Arts Cafe, TAU Community Theatre, Punchinello Theatre and Blue Folk Community Arts Association. Before retiring he was co-owner of Smith’s Alternative Bookshop. Nationally, Mico was the recipient of the Australia Council’s inaugural Roz Bower Memorial Community Arts Fellowship of the Arts in 1982.An OAM was also announced for the livewire 2016 “CityNews” Artist of The Year, musician Alpha Gregory for her service to music in the ACT. In 2016 we wrote that as a conductor and mentor Gregory had been credited with bringing the healing and comforting joy of music to thousands of young Canberrans.
Long-time director of the Woden Valley Youth Choir, she was also musical director of Canberra’s Carols by Candlelight for many years, as well as founding Pied Piper Music for Littlies, Sophisticated Swing vocal ensemble, Blue Sky Singers and Rhythm Syndicate.
Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, she taught music in Barbados and Manchester city before moving to Australia and eventually Canberra. The highlight for her was having the Woden Valley choir sing for Nelson Mandela in 2000.Another relative “newcomer” to the region is David Mac Laren, founder and artistic director of the 35-year-old Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, who was granted an Honorary Order of Australia Medal for his service to the art of woodwork, and to the community of Bungendore.
The “honorary” division has been set up system to pay respect to contributors, like Mac Laren, who are not Australian citizens.
Initially an aspiring playwright and theatre worker in New York City during the early ’70s, well before moving to Australia, he says his theatrical background allowed to him to view a gallery as theatre, so as well as playing host to about 10,000 people every year since moving to the present-day gallery in 1994, he has employed theatrical lighting and display, concerts and other public events to raise the profile of what he calls his “actor-artists”.One of the most active figures in the Canberra music scene, Kevin Bradley, was honoured with a Public Service Medal for outstanding public service through the digital preservation of audio visual heritage material. That’s for his day job – Bradley keeps up a cracking pace as a practising musician and thriving participant in the broader ACT arts community.
He has been the driving force in the development of innovative approaches to preserving the National Library of Australia’s significant collection of unique oral history and folklore recordings.
Bradley was president and executive member of the International Association of Sound and Audio-visual Archives and UNESCO’s “Memory of the World” sub-committee on technology and information for the All Programme Technical Committee.