We sit down with Rebecca Ross, Artistic Director at The Walls.
What is your background? When did you first take an interest in art?
It’s that cliche thing where as a kid I was always drawing and making; but really at high school. I went to Miami High and always thought I would get in to fashion but by my senior years art took over. That's probably because I had two really great art teachers and they have an excellent creative department at Miami High; I really flourished there. I went on from Miami High as the top art student to study a Bachelor of Visual Arts and a Master of Fine Art at QUT (Queensland University of Technology).
What is the current state of the art community on the Gold Coast?
It’s blossoming, it’s blooming! There is a lot happening, there is tons of energy buzzing around and people are being attracted to the Gold Coast. Artists are attracted to come here because of the natural and man made landscapes, and the many interesting attractions the Gold Coast has to offer.
What is being done to move the art movement forward in our area?
Council now has a separate Arts and Culture Unit which includes a new Culture Strategy and a Public Arts Strategy in progress. They have been allocating funding to projects and initiatives on top of the Regional Arts Development Fund that has been happening for some years now in partnership with Arts Queensland. Then there are projects like this (The Walls) where myself and local artists in the community are making things happen.
A couple of years ago you couldn't even find a decent cup of coffee on the Gold Coast. What’s happened is people are traveling and enjoying the finer things big cities have to offer, like good coffee, and bringing it back to the Gold Coast, opening up their own shops and making it happen themselves. That is exactly my story too. I came back from Italy after a residency and wanted to see contemporary art here and to meet other contemporary artists, so I started this project, The Walls.
What is The Walls?
The Walls is a contemporary art space. It started as two white walls up the road in Miami with very humble beginnings. We’ve grown to meet a demand and we are striving to create a permanent platform for contemporary artists on the Gold Coast; it’s unprecedented. It’s a space to present contemporary art and projects, to give artists the opportunity to show, and to grow the conversation around contemporary on the Gold Coast. We also put on events like Banana Sundays where we invite sound and video artists to work and play at The Walls in a more social way, and we invite the community to join in! People can come and dance, and experience sound and video projections, it’s very casual and fun.
Tell me about the artists you host.
We have a local Artist in Residence (AIR) program, our current resident is Ali Bezer and her exhibition ‘Sonogensis’ opens on the 4th of June. It’s a seasonal residency where the resident artist uses our mezzanine studio space for their creative purposes for 3 months. The residency culminates in an exhibition in the downstairs space.
How do you find the artists you choose to incubate?
It’s about caliber. We look for artists that are embedded in the local landscape, they have to live here on the Gold Coast. It's about us keeping a finger on the pulse to see what local artists are doing and who would benefit most from the space to develop new work. We look for artists who are at a point where holding a solo exhibition in a space like The Walls will be an important milestone in their career. We also look for artists who will benefit from a mentorship from myself and the other members on our board. We find them through research and meeting people at shows. It’s an organic process.
What is the age range of the artists using The Walls’ studio?
Early 20’s to 40’s typically, but it could be any age.
Are the artists at The Walls typically creating pieces the general public can relate to, or are they pushing the envelope?
Definitely pushing the envelope, however we do go out of our way to connect the people with the art by creating a literacy around contemporary art. People don't need to know about the art, they just need to come in and explore and have an open mind.
For what reasons was The Walls granted government funding?
One, we operate and osculate on a very high level. It’s a highly professional operation. The program is clear and concise, we are very transparent with who we are. Also, we are the only permanent contemporary art space on the Gold Coast.
We support artists to create new and innovative works and engage the community in the process and outcomes, we’re a unique organisation in the Gold Coast landscape.
How long will that funding last?
We’re the proud recipients of triennial funding through the City of Gold Coast that will last until 2018 and we currently have one year project funding through Arts Queensland. We’re already talking about our 2020 Vision so we’ll be around for a while yet!
How are the visitors to the Gold Coast finding The Walls?
Mostly through social media specifically Instagram. Also word of mouth.
How can people who aren't very artsy get involved in the art community on the Gold Coast?
Come along to an opening! Come and have a cold beer, come as you are, meet the artists and get inspired. We host children, dogs, surfers and artists, it’s incredibly open and inclusive. Check out our website for opening and social events www.thewalls.org.au We love meeting new people, locals and visitors alike, come and say hi!
What role are the Commonwealth Games playing in what is happening with The Walls
It’s meant an injection into cultural funding which has been marvellous for the local arts ecology. It’s a massive compliment to what already exists on the Gold Coast and I believe that the growing arts and cultural scene will continue to draw people to the Gold Coast.
Is there a signature Gold Coast art style?
Oh gosh no! I would be worried if there were.
How has art on the Gold Coast changed in the last 10 years?
There is an awareness and activation that was missing 10 years ago. Bleach Festival, Dust Temple, Maverick Hair and Art Space and Co-Spaces in Southport have all emerged in the last couple of years. There’s new things surfacing all the time now.
How does our art scene compare with Australia's major cities?
We’re not a capital city so I think it would be unfair to compare. Regionally we are doing amazing things. I think we have a landscape and lifestyle that people envy; it’s why we are called Australia's Playground. We don't want to compare. We should continue to be different, and be fun and flamboyant in our approach. However, I do know The Walls for one does operate in a way thats on par with any artist run contemporary art space in the bigger cities.
Is there a possibility of the Gold Coast turning into a major hub for art in Australia?
Absolutely! Give it a decade and The Walls will be massive!
What can we look forward to in the coming months at The Walls?
Ali Bezer’s show, our Banana Sunday event series, rolling exhibitions, group and solo shows, another artist in residence, and at the end of the year a Christmas party! We do about 11 shows annually so there is always something on. You can find more details on our website www.thewalls.org.au
Aside from The Walls, where do you like to go to look at art on the Gold Coast?
I was at Gold Coast City Gallery last night and I’m headed up to Co-Spaces in Southport on the weekend to see new work by 2015 Walls Artist in Residence Hannah Smith. I get to whatever I can that’s happening locally.
Where is your favourite spot to grab a coffee?
Nook Espresso in Burleigh.
Favourite dinner spot?
I recently tried Gemillini in Nobby’s and Aloha Bar in Broadbeach - both were great!
Favourite Outdoorsy Spot?
Burleigh Point and the espy.
Where is the best place to buy art?
For more information about The Walls, click HERE!
By: Marleigh Kelly
Photo Credit: Alan Warren