Christmas is approaching and it’s been a heck of a year for many many people. For Arts Upper Hunter, 2021 was truly bittersweet.
Let’s look back at this tumultuous year.
In February Mark Reedman, a larger than life character in so many ways – that memorable voice, love of theatre, devotion to the communities he served – passed away suddenly and unexpectedly (he might have said “shuffled off this mortal coil”). Sadly missed.
Into his great shoes stepped Carolyn O’Brien. I’d use the word “fearless” to describe Carolyn. AUH was looking to oversee one of its largest ever programs, a cache of events and gigs spread across the region as part of the State Government’s Rescue & Restart program. Carolyn, often accompanied by photographer and musician Anna Rankmore, ranged around the Upper Hunter LGAs, supporting the program. I met them at a Performing Artists of Dungog gig.
Rescue and Restart funded music, ceramics, visual arts, dance, theatre, photography and more across the Upper Hunter region (see below).
Then, just as we began holding our business skills and grant-writing workshops (thanks Carolyn and Jane), Covid returned in its Delta form and everyone had to buckle down and take care of themselves.
Meanwhile AUH got its third Executive Director of the year, myself, in September. I was warmly welcomed by a wonderful Board Of Management and by our inestimable Office Manager, Comms, Bookkeeper and Repository of Elven AUH Lore, Sandra Reichel. Sandra has had a roller-coaster of a year like the organisation itself and still maintains her joie de vivre amidst it all. She is such a rock.
(Incidentally, if you would like to join the Board, we will be looking for more Board Members in the new year. Perhaps you have the right skills and experience to help us navigate new directions, make prickly decisions and represent your community. Stay tuned.)
Building on Carolyn’s work, we’ve spent the last three months putting together our strategy for 2022-24. More in later ArtSparks, but let’s say we’re after more engagement, more digital, more accessibility, more collaboration, more revenue so we can make some big-picture dreams come true … And, of course, more of the things Arts Upper Hunter has always done well, connecting artists, advising grant applicants, putting events together, advocating for the creative industries, promoting opportunities and happenings, and ensuring this region doesn’t miss out.
Meanwhile Create NSW seems to have taken to heart the message of the Restart program – if the money’s there, the arts can thrive. In October we learnt that our core funding was going up, giving us a little more breathing space. Initially we’re using the extra to fund a new Aboriginal Arts Officer position.
There are so many to thank. Many have stepped up and helped us through this tough year, from job interviewers to gallery managers, to the people who put so much energy into so many projects, even the projects that didn’t “get that grant”. Oh, and above all you artists, making, doing, expressing, effervescing, while riding your own life-roller-coaster yourself.
Lockdowns are over; uncertainty continues; hope rises. For now, from us at Arts Upper Hunter, we wish you a joyous Christmas. Don’t forget to keep on jingling, and remember there are plenty of lonely folks at Chrissie time.
And as we move into the new year, I’m confident we’ll make a splash, with Mark’s defining spirit looking down on us from high above the stage which all this world seems to be.