The exhibition SEXSELLS: Observations of an Eroticised Consumer Culture, held last week by a group of young Wollongong artists, brought to life the issues surrounding publicity and the art scene in Wollongong.

The exhibition was part of an effort to get the community more involved in local art and cultural events.

Curator and member of the Wollongong Young Artist Collective, Jesse Whitmore said the biggest problem with the art in Wollongong is it’s a closed off community.

“Our exhibitions are driven by the belief that art is for the public and driven further by the public,” he said.

“After all, art is a tool of communication and the only way to get people interested in the culture of this town is to get people together and talking about it.

“The decision to keep the exhibition in Wollongong was a deliberate one, as the artists all agreed they would prefer to develop and build spaces and audiences locally.”

The collective has been trying to improve its publicity since a 2010 the Illawarra Mercury survey revealed almost half of the Wollongong residents did not know where to find galleries in the local area, and almost three-quarters had never been to one.

In response, the collective has set up the website ‘Gong101’, with the goal to “build community and give artists the opportunity to network with other like minded creative people,” Mr Whitmore said.

Vicky Smith, a London-based artist holding guest lecturers at the University of Wollongong, says community art spaces are important.

“You can’t just have a society that is led by administration,” Ms Smith said.

“It is very important, everybody should have the opportunity to have a creative practice, and the more art spaces that are available to encourage that or make that possible, the richer the world would be.”

Mr Whitmore said the issue with art and the availability of art spaces in Wollongong stems from how the art world operates.

“Artist need to be more forefront of community involvement, not just within the ‘art scene’ and visa-versa, meaning those who run community involvement should get more closely tied with the art community,” he said.

“Young artists need to both feel like they can be involved in Wollongong cultured as well as be involved.

“The art scene is Wollongong has a lot of potential. We have a university and some extremely bright artists come from in and growing in the general area.”

Words: JOANNA GRIFFITHS
Photos: SOPHIE HARRIS

 

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