Creativity at the heart of a flourishing city

Ballarat has an ongoing history of engaging artists, designers, artisans to create, make and do the extraordinary things they do. Our artists have sung for us, like astounding opera singer David Hobson, our composers like Adam Simmons have created new music and festivals for us, photographers like Aldona Keimic have documented our world.

The Ballarat Arts Foundation is a small group that provides seeding funding to help artists take the next step in their practice. Ensuring that the arts, design and creativity are in the community mix, which gives us a society that can survive and thrive through such challenging times.

The foundation’s work is evidence of our community’s commitment to fostering creativity and innovation, pushing forward to be a major creative hub for Victoria. We are welcoming a new council noticing a cultural agenda, and the Committee for Ballarat talks now of the arts and culture as important.

Ballarat needs to place itself as a creative destination and welcoming place for new talent. For every young artist getting this award, there is another that’s already been helped that can reach back in time and tell the story. The strength of creating an ongoing narrative of the creative arts community in Ballarat is essential for this to continue.

A creative city is a place where art and design are valued, where ideas an object making can flourish. There are many ideas, but to be creative and innovative in your practice you need the opportunity to be able to make them. This is the value of the artist in successful communities and what we see artists striving for here tonight.

Successful cities have strong design, welcome ideas and are flexible in approach. They seek the new in a post-manufacturing age. Creative places are built up by ongoing recognition, support and celebration of the arts as a true resource for a place, a community. We want our business, our family to be part of a community that can use creativity to solve many problems like transport, homelessness, use of resources, jobs and budgets. We know the answers to our contemporary challenges are found not in the past, but in the present where we can put our ideas and cultural resources to work.

Ballarat has an international design history – Lydiard Street is evidence of our ability to recognise the designs of the past, they layer our visual language and understanding of our place. The Danish jewelers working on the goldfields, showcased in Bling exhibition at MADE, our strong music scene, the Foto Biennale and BOAA. We use new technology to tell an old narrative at Sovereign Hill. The local Wuthurung artists’ paintings and some of the best possum skin coats I have ever seen. This creativity helps build a successful community and cultural economy.

I want my Ballarat to be able to take the lead, to have and implement ideas. Creativity is applied imagination and the foundation is an example of the forethought and appreciation of creative impulses at work. The foundation, and the individuals who come together to help this happen, help make our community the best, most creative and therefore the most successful it can be.

To paraphrase Cinderella, one of the oldest tales of help given to one of courage, who begins with nothing and yet has the resources to solve the woes of the kingdom: ”These people, artists, help us to see the world, not just as it is but as it could be with courage, kindness and just a little magic.”

This is an excerpt from a talk announcing the 2016-17 recipient of the Ballarat Art Foundation Award at the Post Office Gallery. Dr Lisa Anderson is professor adjunct at Federation University Australia.