Like many things in 2021, cultural tourism has taken a break as borders have been impacted by COVID closures. This, however, did not stop cultural production. On the contrary; it offered many artists and art centers the hope of continuing to create.
A good example is the opening of the Northern Territory’s newest gallery, the Gallery of Central Australia (GoCA) at Ayers Rock Resort, which celebrates its first anniversary this month.
The gallery opened at the height of the closures in an area deeply dependent on tourists wishing to engage with the region’s unique culture and landscape.
The inaugural exhibition, which showcases over 300 works of art supporting current and emerging artists, includes specially selected objects like Punu (traditional Anangu wood carving) and pieces designed and produced by local communities exclusively from the desert regions of the center and west.
Fabiola Martinez-Hinojosa, Director of GoCA Gallery, told ArtsHub: “We have used this past year as a unique opportunity to learn even more about the artist’s stories and the art centers we represent. “
Currently, 19 of the region’s 35 art centers are working with GoCA to showcase their works, many of which are in remote communities bypassing tourists.
Martinez-Hinojosa added that when they were finally able to open their doors, albeit intermittently, the joy of engaging visitors and selling the work of local artists “demonstrated how GoCA can amplify the reach of the work of the ‘artist”.
She added that this first anniversary is not just a celebration of a new gallery on the backcountry cultural circuit, but a celebration of the resilience of First Nations culture.
“What people comment on, when they enter the gallery, is a sense of surprise to see so many works of art from different places in one place. There is such a diversity of artists practicing in the Central and Western Desert, and we reflect this by showcasing the different styles of each region and educating guests through this experience,” she added.
We are very inclusive and help develop the careers of emerging Indigenous artists through GoCA’s exhibition experience.
Key to the strategic framework that underpins GoCA is the desire to support emerging artists. “There are a number of galleries that support these really established artists, but we want to represent emerging artists alongside those who are already established,” Martinez-Hinojosa told ArtsHub.
More than selling paintings on a wall
Extending the passion for knowledge sharing and supporting the careers of Indigenous artists, GoCA has placed an ongoing artist-in-residence program at the heart of its programming. It operates during peak season and offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience first-hand the creative process and the cultural insights behind the artworks.
“An artist-in-residence program is nothing new, but thanks to GoCA, we’ve been able to create a truly valuable experience, both for the artists and for our guests. We have a dedicated space within the gallery where they The artists can stay from two weeks to one month, and we provide them with accommodation and meals.
“There is a real synergy between what we do, what we support and what we offer to customers,” added Martinez-Hinojosa. “And people have a real connection with an artist. It also gives the artist some time to leave the country – to take a “break” – and immerse themselves in this professional development experience.
“For them to see people interact with their work – to see how it is valued and how they open up to learning about the culture – is an incredible experience for artists, and we are very grateful to play a part in the facilitate these connections. to learn,” Martinez-Hinojosa said.
The gallery was created with a very clear vision to support artists from the central desert and artists living on the country. It took three to four years to prepare.
“We really engage with the community to make sure it’s authentic; we travel to communities, to Desert Mob, to Aboriginal art fairs, to the National Indigenous Art Awards, asking the right questions of the right people and to make sure that we are providing support in the right way,” explained Martinez- Hinojosa.
This continues in the way the Gallery remunerates its artists. Works are shipped direct from art centers working on a fixed price and percentage model – a worldwide convention for commercial galleries – rather than the type of outright purchase and “price hike” convention that has plagued the Aboriginal art market in the past. .
“We win, if they win. It’s about supporting and growing those communities,” Martinez-Hinojosa said.
GoCA is located next to the Desert Gardens Hotel, Uluru. It is open seven days a week and presents a daily tour at 10:30 a.m. to visitors. There are no admission fees.
The gallery is managed by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.