AS the River of Art Festival was getting ready to light up the Moruya River, the fickle finger of covid fortune struck down the 16th annual celebration of the Eurobodalla’s arts community.
But co-chairs of the event, Di Jay and Vicki Lascelles, are pushing on regardless with a virtual festival.
With 40 per cent of the visitors from outside the region, they’re keen for people to participate in some way.
Alas, Jay tells me by phone from the south coast, there’ll be no physical illumination of the river, as had been planned for the new “Luminous: Art After Dark” event, but there’ll be plenty of other distractions, with the visual arts leading the charge.
There’ll also be no River of Art Prize and exhibition, which have been put on hold, so that entries already received from artists and makers within and beyond the Eurobodalla region will be carried over until early 2022 and no closing date has been set as yet.
Central to the 2021 Virtual River of Art will be the arts directory, which was introduced last year, where many of the 125 events, including textiles, woodwork, sculpture, painting and even music, film and poetry, will go ahead.
The way it works, Jay says, is that they’ll look at the entries, contact the artists and encourage them to enter the directory, which will allow people to “graze about in the arts”.
Artists can submit multiple images and link the artwork to social media and to the River of Art YouTube channel. Anyone from the broader region, including Canberra, can create their own personal pitch.
Starting on September 17, the arts directory will feature works of the region’s artists and, looking back to last year’s open studios, there’ll be virtual visits to artists such as sculptor Paul Dimmer and jewellery maker Virginia Aland, who would have opened studios during the event, while online galleries will allow people to view, purchase and commission works from the locked-down artists.
Responding to the the unfortunate cancellations of events such as Beatlemania Narooma Style and an art installation of knitted wattle devised by the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens and University of Wollongong, the directory offers a huge variety of experiences, including, so far, the Jack Spahr Moruya Performing Arts’ voice and movement, drama and dance and the School Selfies Photo Project from Bodalla Public School.
The committee is determined that covid won’t knock the optimism and enthusiasm out of them and prepared the dates for next year’s festival as September 16-25.
In any festival, it’s the non-visual arts that provide the pizzazz, and all the creative people involved, including performers, can also be listed in the art directory.
Jay says some musicians have already agreed to put together video material, with Candelo musician Sam Martin, whose famous musical caravan would have been parked at the Riverside Caravan Park, an early taker. Other likely online performers are musos Richard Cook and The Three Graces, also from Candelo.
One enticing inclusion online is the cabaret performance, “Disenchanted: a Cabaret of Twisted Fairy Tales”, in which Sydney mezzo-soprano Eliane Morel, raised in Canberra and a former voice student at the ANU School of Music, plays characters from fairy tales who tell their side of the stories.
In lieu of the festival’s mural event along the coast, which has been deferred to Easter, there will be a short visit video featuring the mural from 2020, providing what Jay calls, “a bit of a teaser for next year”.
The 2021 Virtual River of Art Festival, September 17-26 at riverofart.com.au and for exhibitions and events enter “River of Art Festival” at youtube.com
Who can be trusted?
In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.
If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.
Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.
Ian Meikle, editor