Art & Creativity in Darwin

Way up north, Darwin is constantly fighting against the ever-present “crocodiles and beers” misconceptions which are commonly held by some Australians down south.

Those Southern Australians, unlucky enough to live in an environment in which sleet and biting winds whip through the streets in dreary winter-time, might find the tropical weather and burgeoning Creative Industry (CI) in Darwin an inspirational change.

Dr Susan Luckman, Professor Tess Leigh, and Associate Professor Chris Gibson, along with industry partners have tabled a report illustrating the nature and the extent of change in Darwin’s Creative Industries (CI).

The report also deals with policy frameworks affecting CI, and finally, identifying future opportunities for CI in Darwin.

“Darwin is punching above its weight as a sophisticated, creative city” Dr Luckman said.

Creating jobs and lifestyle opportunities are the key details for CI’s future in Darwin, a city whose creative culture is bolstered by the inspiring, spectacular environment.

Often, harbor-front redevelopments were “one size fits all”, based on European, or American models Dr Luckman said.

Anchor tenants, like the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in the north of Spain, are sometimes used to bolster a re-development’s international credibility, but, “This direction is not a vehicle for distinctiveness” Dr Luckman said.

So, instead of following overseas models, developers will concentrate on the uniqueness of the creative culture of Darwin, and focused on the lifestyle on offer.

Darwin is an incredibly multicultural city, a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, including at least a 30% indigenous population, and is strengthened by its openness, both geographically and culturally.

“Darwin has a richness of people, and this distinctiveness is the key” Dr Luckman said.

Many in Darwin’s CI are part-time artists, living a dual-lifestyle by supporting themselves with daytime work while plying their trade as painters or musicians at night, as part of the city’s lively and bustling night life.

Local artists often have trouble finding affordable accommodation in the creative hub of the city due to this dual-lifestyle sometimes not being as lucrative as they would like.

Dr Luckman said affordable housing for artists be made available in the harbor-side re-development.

The same sort of subsidised housing arrangement is made available to artists in New York’s SoHo, an archetypal example of inner-city regeneration and gentrification, and a yardstick for Darwin to go by.

As in SoHo, local artists could give workshops for their fellow tenants or provide labour to local businesses in return for the rent-controlled accommodation.

There is an ease of access to decision makers in Darwin, via a commonplace open door policy with politicians and other local power brokers.

Darwin’s proximity to Asia makes it cheaper and faster to access the rest of the world, or for the rest of the world to access Australia through Darwin.

Darwin’s world famous markets have been a springboard for many artists into making their mark locally in city stores, or taking their art to a global audience.

Travel to and from disparate sites in Darwin such as the Markets and the harbor-front re-development, can be problematic for visitors.

Dr Luckman said reliable bus services to and from popular creative destinations along with maps pinpointing those destinations and some “off the radar sites” would be of immense benefit to the travelling tourist.

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