Last weekend, I attended the inaugural Artstate Conference in Lismore. Artstate is a new four-year project by Regional Arts NSW that shines a light on excellence in regional arts practice and explores exciting possibilities for arts and cultural development across the state. Artstate Lismore 2017 was an exciting two-day program of speakers who explored themes of creative practice and creative partnerships. Running alongside the speakers’ program was a multi-genre arts program featuring the rich creative talents of artists from the north coast of NSW. Most of the conference was held around City Hall, and on the grass outside the building, local artist Digby Moran had created a beautiful sand installation about his intimate connection to Bundjalung Country.

Digby Moran Sand Installation

I loved it all – the people, the art, the music and theatre performances, the fabulous morning teas and lunches – but I especially loved the strong focus on Aboriginal arts and arts leaders. Thank you to all those who organised Artstate Lismore! I came away with new friends and new knowledge that will help me advance my creative practice and improve my performance as a regional artist. I also met an old friend at the conference – the amazingly creative Mandy Peters, who is now the Décor Manager of dressing rooms for artists at the Mullum Music Festival and Byron Bay Bluesfest. Mandy and I used to share a house in Annandale in the late 1980s and it was fun to catch up again after so many years.

Mandy and me

As one of the other conference delegates said – ‘Artstate lit the fire in my belly’ – and I feel the same way. Many thanks to Regional Arts NSW who provided me with generous funding to go to this life changing event.  My attendance at Artstate Lismore 2017 was made possible through a Quick Response Grant provided by Regional Arts NSW through the Regional Arts Fund, an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional, remote and very remote Australia.