Conservatism hampers Ballarat’s bid to be regional art destination: report

As Ballarat strives to be recognised as a regional art destination, a new report shows the city’s creativity is hampered by conservatism and a lack of collaboration.

The community consultation report for the Creative City Strategy was released last week. Respondents said the divides between different arts disciplines and conservative attitudes were barriers that need to be removed before the city can thrive. 

One respondent said some long-time residents, “have far too much power in decision-making, and the balance at 'the table' needs addressing, with more creative people getting a say.”

When it comes to collaborative or ‘maker’ spaces, more than 41 per cent of respondents said Ballarat’s options were of a limited offering and poor quality. 

But the city scored well on safety, with more than 76 per cent of people saying it was reasonably safe or better.

Other suggestions for the arts precinct included less car parking, increased use of the Sturt Street gardens and more co-working spaces. 

When complete, the strategy will guide future investment in Ballarat’s arts and culture precinct, and include a feasibility study to examine expanding the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said the city “know that we’ve got a way to go”, but the strategy would assist in breaking down barriers between art forms.

“Why we’re working with the strategy is to bring together various parts of community … It takes a long time for people to take a different approach,” she said. 

“It’s really about everyone coming together and not about working in silos.”

Those surveyed said they want more busking, community festivals, family-friendly activities and events celebrating indigenous culture and heritage.

“I think the thing that have come out of this are the areas that people feel safe, and it’s particularly in creative art spaces,” Cr McIntosh said.  

“We can focus on built form and plan the hard core infrastructure, but without taking a creative approach we don’t bring it to life.”

The next session discussing the project is at the Lost Ones Gallery Basement Bar from 7pm on May 21.