Sunday, 13 March 2011

michelleleonard96x144Michelle Leonard, is the founding Artistic Director and conductor of the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus, the Moorambilla Voices Regional Children’s Choirs and Festival Director of the Moorambilla Festival. This is the second installment of our first blog!

Well its been a busy week that is for sure!

Moorambilla just took over this week (not according to schedule damn it!) and some wonderfully exciting developments happened with the Weilwan Ngemba artists, from Warren through Outback arts, who will be  involved in 2011. Looks like their remarkable work will not only form the artistic starting point for the MAXed OUT commission this year, but we will meet up on audition tour to see them first hand, and talk about how we can show their work to best effect in the Art Deco Montery Cafe in Coonamble during the festival - exciting, challenging, an amazing opportunity and a real positive step foward. But HEAPS to do to bring it to fruition (again!).


Sculpture in Pilliga ForrestLast year when we used the spectacular new sculptures in Dandry Gorge in the Pilliga scrub as a compositional starting point the four artists were in town. We got to meet them, talk to them about their work and (more importantly I thought) the 'blocks' they created, the challanges of their particular medium, and how they got artistically past them. They were really frank, and I thought it was hugely valuable for us to have this before trying to conceive the work with Dan Walker and Taikoz for the festival. Guardians of the Gorge was a huge success - this year with SYO and Sydney Brass and now these artists. It bodes well but I am nervous and excited by the possibilities for innovation, and think again what  a great opportunity this is. And one these students really deserve. They are so creative and with the right people molding their ideas - this festival has the potential to be the best yet.

So it' s now looking like this year we will be able to meet the visual artists directly as they are actually working artists from the region. These women often work collaboratively on the pieces, and are only just seeing themselves as artists. A little like the regional youth in MAXed OUT. This is very exciting indeed, and something i have wanted for so long. I have so many questions to ask about the tree scaring these works are based on. I think my Dad's property (in Moorambilla) has some, but we have never known much about it. Their paintings are based on tree scaring in the  Macquarie Marshes. I feel that this work is well overdue, and follows on from the Kats Chernin composition we did in 2009 on the Brewarrina fish traps (an aboriginal structure much older than Stonehenge!). How wonderful would it be if the works could be performed to a wider audience outside Coonamble?!? Having said that, most people in the region don't know about so many of the things happening just two hours away, so first things first Michelle!

So that's been this week, a mix of visual and musical for Moorambilla overall, with the result being a regional art show and some wonderful street markets, a festival flyer slowly making deadline, composers getting more ideas, and council that is ever so slowly moving positively foward, (I still have some doubts about many things here - but glass half full!) and a new  local co-ordinator who realises that the festival is not just about Coonamble,but the region (it's taken 6 years!) So, now I am feeling we have all the ingredients to really move foward ...still it is early days, and people's misconceptions and personal issues with things like music, art and festivals take time to change. Still I firmly believe with the right people in the right jobs things start to move!

This week has really shown me the importance of keeping 'on message' and making that message clear and simple. Dad always said if you can't explain a complex issue simply by breaking it down then you don't really understand it yourself. Often easier said than done with some people!

I have also learnt that it is so very VERY important to place value on the artistic direction and skills you posses. It is too easy for people to mistakenly believe that  it's 'easy for you' and hence ok to give money for 'real costs' like administration, flyers, etc. Getting them to acknowledge that this is all because of an artistic vision which is unique, culturally important, and yours, is not 'talking yourself up'. It is actually placing a value on the skill you have which have taken years to aquire - and is the reason for all the effort anyway!

I must admit I find this  line hard, especially in this type of environment because you do not want to alienate people from participating in the artform or undermine their capacity to articulate their own experiences. However its a fine line and the phrase 'mutual respect' in deed and word is really the crux of the issue.  My biggest advocate, my husband, when i was sounding off about it put it very well: "Cultural shift, Michelle, takes more than 6 years, darling!"

So here's to it - a shift to a culture of respect for the unique skills of musicians, and artists who give meaning and voice to our experiences, whether it is through the creation of new work or the performance of old. The more we value, and strive to place this value at the centre of what we do, the better chance our children will have of a society that has the capacity to actively decide on what types of art forms they wish to be involved in - all, or some, but not none!