Business Local

Kick Starting Youth Art

Words by: Natasha Bloomfield
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For the second year in a row I have been enticed by the ever lovely Propel Youth Arts WA into attending, and, for this year, helping to organise, their largest annual event, the KickstART Festival.

Hosted in partnership with the Department of Local Government and Communities, the festival included a mix of free special events, workshops and forums, held at several local arts institutions over it’s three weeks – think The Blue Room Theatre, WA Museum, PICA, Paper Mountain, and Colosoul. As if these super stars weren’t enough, the massive arts event also encouraged the direct involvement of aspiring artists and young community members by forming a committee of twenty under-26s, who have met regularly at Propel since last October.

The first week ended with a bang, with Market Day on the 11th April being one of my most highly anticipated special events. I’d helped with the organising and was keen to see the fruit of my loins – laminating, by the way, is an extremely therapeutic practise, and one I would recommend if you’re stressed about exams, jobs, life choices. The rain held off for the best part of the day, and the colourful mix of stalls, live dance and music performances, the awesome maze-castle sculpture installation, and the Art trail, filled up the Perth Cultural Centre and showcased the awesome talent of young creatives in Perth. In amongst the extensive entertainment, banners, fezzes, and amazing handmade art on sale, it wasn’t too difficult to get swept away for hours on end, and I even caught a glimpse of my laminated stall holder’s signs.

In order to gain new creative skills and try something new I attended two workshops. Firstly, “Spray and Play” with local graphic designer Sarah Stirling, which involved a can of white spray paint, a ukulele, and a Mario stencil. For the more talented and courageous there was the option to spray paint said ukulele’s boxes and to decorate ukuleles ombré or rainbow colours. However, for myself, this was an experience only to be witnessed. Many white sprays later and after a small incident where my ukulele stuck to the table – which did, if I do say so myself, add some impressive texture – I was the proud owner of a brand new strung-up musical instrument and the belief that I was much more adept in spray painting than previously thought. I might even try ombré next year.

My next outing was to a procrastination workshop for artists. And by that I mean to learn how to counter procrastinate. Producer and performer Bonnie Davis dished out some much needed advice for creatives that is also useful for everyday life. Most importantly for myself was the notion of finding an organisational system that works well, and much more difficultly, devising a plan to use it consistently. And just to prove I am an alumni of her class, at least one of my email inboxes now has zero emails.

My personal favourite event was the KickstART Sounds music night on the 24th April. Hidden away from the wind in the State Theatre Centre courtyard and with blankets provided to stave off the cold, the intimate night ran smoothly for it’s three hour course and featured all local artists. The acoustic sets included Bernardine, Patient Little Sister, and the committee’s very own Cam Hurst. A personal favourite was third act The Woods, whose hauntingly beautiful guitar work and perfectly harmonized voices were coupled with an audience sing-along in “You Know Me.” And by the end of the night, I’m sure we all felt (or secretly wished) we did.

So what now for Propel?

Hard-working Project Officer Jysae Hair and Marketing Manager Jamie McGleave have some secrets up their sleeves. I shot them some hard-hitting questions:

Can you tell us about Propel and your work in the youth/arts industry?

JH: Propel Youth Arts WA is the peak body for youth arts in Western Australia dedicated to creating opportunities for young people to engage in the Arts. From contemporary dance to photography, music to design, theatre to visual art – creative activity in all shapes and sizes is celebrated at Propel. Our work is focused on arts advocacy, skills development and access to opportunities, for those already engaged in the arts and those who would like to be.

Have you gathered some good ideas for next years festival?

JH: Oh yes! The National Youth Week Planning Committee and myself already have many ideas for next year. I won’t give too much away at this stage, but I think we might try and shake it all up a bit!

What now for Propel – do you have any new exciting projects in the works? Any plans to reform old projects?

JH: Phew, let me breath after KickstART first! But yes, we have some very exciting plans in the pipeline.

JM: If I have my way, we’ll have a mixture of new and revamped versions of older projects coming to fruition within the next year. We can’t say too much but there will definitely be a few changes on the horizon. These things take time but it’s also important that Propel capitalises on the goodwill and momentum created by the KickstART Festival.

What does Propel view as some of the main ways to increase engagement and opportunities for youth in the WA arts industry?

JH: First and foremost, building partnerships and relationships with other youth-focused organisations. This is something we would really like to focus on into the future. We believe it will be of great benefit to young people already engaged in the arts, and those that would like to be.

JM: Propel serves a really broad catchment of young people, so I think about it as two diverse segments: high school aged young people with arts interests and young emerging artists aged 18-26 years old. As you can imagine, these are two very different groups.

I guess Propel best adheres to its vision of increasing engagement and opportunities for youth by getting people interested and involved in the arts while they are in school, and then advocating and helping them when they decide to make the arts their career, into their early-mid twenties.

And just in case you missed any of the festival buzz, you can still catch the Arts Law and Order Forum with Michael Tucak on the 13th May at the Tunnel Theatrette, State Theatre Centre, 6-7.30pm. Register here.