The artistic benefits of an ACR grant

M&G spoke with 2014 Artist or Curator Residency (ACR) recipients Sarah Last and David Burraston about the ACR program, which offers financial assistance for galleries to engage an artist or curator to research and develop new work, host community workshops and lead public programs.

ACR applications are now open, with four grants of $11,250 available to regional galleries across the country to host an artist or curator in residence.

Applications for the 2016 round close Friday 4 September and all publicly funded Australian regional galleries are invited to apply. Applications from independent artists or curators are also eligible if hosted and supported by a regional gallery.

As recipients of an ACR grant in 2014 Sarah Last and David Burraston worked with The Arts Centre, Cootamundra to develop a suite of activities oriented around the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands (BGGW), an endangered habitat endemic to the Cootamundra region.

The Cootamundra based artists specialise in interdisciplinary and sound based art forms, harnessing the auditory and acoustic qualities of the environment and work closely with other artists and musicians to find new ways to understand and document their region.

An exhibition of their work opens at Cootamundra Arts Centre later this month.


M&G: Tell us about the BGGW project and your ongoing work with the woodlands?

SL: We have worked with the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands area for many years through our involvement in The Wired Lab. The Wired Lab’s projects involve artists working from a regional context whilst producing outcomes of local and global relevance.

Our ACR project was initially focused on expanding our sound oriented creative research into the woodlands. The project also hoped to make key links with the community members and conduct some workshops in field recording techniques. This however expanded further, as we also collaborated with Cootamundra Shire Council and the Arts Centre to expand these activities into a series of workshops in weaving and bush dyeing that used materials directly from the woodland environs. These activities were supported by a Local Government NSW ‘Creative Ageing’ grant and ensured free workshop places for locals aged over 55.

Our residency provided us with the opportunity to share our knowledge and skills with the community.

M&G: What was involved in opening up the project to the community?

SL: We liaised with a number of community groups and key individuals to expand awareness of the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands and to broaden our creative practice linked to this habitat. People from all parts of the community assisted including members of the Muttama Creek restoration committee, local birdwatchers, farmers, visual artists, musicians, U3A and Wiradjuri Elder Bob Glanville. We facilitated two one-day workshops on field recording and are scheduling again to meet with workshop attendees prior to the exhibition in late July.

To encourage a broader community engagement we worked with two artists, Jemima Saunders and Harriet Goodall, to develop the bush dyeing and weaving workshops, which spanned five days over two weekends. The workshops on natural dying and weaving were highly successful and attended to capacity.

This enthusiasm has continued long past these workshops where a group of women and I have had regular meetings and continue the practice of bush dyeing.


M&G: What were the benefits of this residency experience to your own practice?

SL: We were immensely happy with our residency and collaboration with The Arts Centre. Whilst we are local residents of Cootamundra, one of our core areas of practice is the art of sound. With sound being a ‘non-traditional’ art form it is often difficult for people to understand what it is that we do and why we do it.

Our residency provided us with the opportunity to share our knowledge and skills with the community, and to initiate some important local contacts, especially in the Indigenous and Natural Resource Management communities, that are contextual to our ongoing work into Box Gum Grassy Woodlands.

The residency positively contributed to our continuing work with the Wiradjuri community where we are working to develop a project linking the Acoustic Ecology of BGGW Country with tools for learning Language.

The success of the weaving and dyeing workshops has prompted The Cootamundra Arts Centre to expand an exhibition of workshop outcomes to include an Arts Centre wide focus of Fabrics and Fibres where local textile artists have been invited to exhibit and give demonstrations during the first weekend of the exhibition.

In our capacity as The Wired Lab, we are planning to continue collaborating with the Arts Centre via a suite of community workshops in 2016. These activities build capacity for us, along with other local artists conducting the workshops and also for the viability of The Cootamundra Arts Centre. Ultimately these activities build creative and social capacity for our community.

The enthusiasm has continued long past these workshops.

M&G: Where can we find out more about your work?

Establishing a personal website has been on my ‘to do’ list for a while but having a baby and developing projects for The Wired Lab has diverted my attention from any self promotion! However, the way in which I work reflects the increasingly convergent world that we live in and blurs conventional distinctions of curator, artist and producer, The Wired Lab is an artist-led organisation and our website documents many of my artist(s)-as-facilitator projects, along with any independent and collaborative work David and I have completed under the auspices of The Wired Lab.

In the past I was heavily involved in Wagga Space Program an artist run initiative where I commenced my experimental arts of sound, live arts and community cultural development explorations via the ‘unsound’ festivals.

A summary of project reviews and interviews can be found at Realtime Arts.

David’s website and blogs will take you on many of his independent music and research trajectories.


This project has been supported by an Artist or Curator Residency grant.

The Artist or Curator Residency program is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund and is managed by Museums & Galleries of NSW.

The Wired Lab ‘Creative Ageing’ workshop series was presented with the support of the Office for Ageing, Family and Community Services and Local Government NSW.

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