Adelaide's Lisa King has painted this Bowen St wall for First Coat, Monday, May 30, 2016.
Adelaide's Lisa King has painted this Bowen St wall for First Coat, Monday, May 30, 2016. Kevin Farmer

Public art a positive for regional tourism

WITH the success of street art projects in Stanthorpe last year, could contemporary arts festivals give the Southern Downs the boost it needs?

The East Side Gallery in Berlin and Melbourne's laneways have long been known as tourist spots for street art, and regional destinations like Lismore and Byron Bay have also capitalised on art potential with alleyways and industrial areas plastered with large street art projects. Closer to Warwick, Brisbane Street Art Festival and First Coat exemplify the benefit of bringing art to life in the public domain.

Driven by artists and advocates for change in regional Australia since 2014, First Coat has built a public art legacy of large-scale, outdoor murals throughout the heart of Toowoomba.

Stanthorpe Gallery director Mary Findlay said the mural of long-time Stanthorpe resident Angelo Valiante painted last year was the Southern Downs' demonstrated how lucrative street art could be for the region.

"I think it's been a great extension of art to have this piece of street art in the town that represents Stanthorpe's history and Italian heritage," Ms Findlay said.

"I think everyone would like to see more of it because it's exciting and gives a new dimension to the town."

Warwick Arts Council president Barbara George-Jaeggli said there could also be greater possibilities on the horizon for the performing arts.

Produced by Woodford Folk Festival in partnership with other festivals, The Festival of Small Halls is a series of tours that takes the best folk and contemporary acoustic artists and sends them on the road to tiny halls in communities nationwide.

"We haven't had too many events of late and many of those we have had have been more for the local community," she said.

"That said, festivals seem to be drawing people in and I think with a bit of effort we could bring more of them here to the Southern Downs.

"The Festival of Small Halls is one that we've been looking at and we would certainly be happy for them to come out here."

Community key to arts

In lieu of a healthy arts and tourism budget, councillor Rod Kelly said bringing more arts would rely on grant applications and community support.

"The arts contribute significantly to tourism for our region, and though council is the conductor of tourism, it's up to those who benefit from it to get behind these projects," Cr Kelly said.

"It's clear from events like Jumpers and Jazz where the artistic components have continued to grow 14 years since its inception.

"Collaborations between our creative communities, tourism operators and business owners will be vital to the ongoing sustainability of tourism in our region.

"There may not always be the Regional Arts Development Funding or other grants available, but if the support is there we can ensure these sort of projects can continue in some way."

Southern Downs Regional Council has secured $55,000 of State Government funding, combined with a council contribution of $45,000 for a total of $100,000 in funding for this financial year's RADF program.

Applications open next Monday and close at 5pm, February 10.

Projects must not start before March 27.

For more information, visit sdrc.qld.gov.au, or phone RADF liaison officer Zoe Dunlop on 1300697372.



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