Digital platform helping to create youth connections with Art Gallery collection

City of Newcastle

Newcastle Art Galley’s collection may have been put in storage while the building’s long-awaited expansion takes place, but that hasn’t stopped a passionate group of volunteers from creating new ways for young people to connect with the works of art.

The Gallery’s Youth Advisory Group has spent the past year working on their Youth to Collection (Y2C) Project, which will culminate this Saturday with the official launch of their interactive digital platform.

(Back row L-R) Newcastle Art Gallery Audience Coordinator Zana Kobayashi, Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton, and The Creator Incubator Founding Director Braddon Snape. (Front row L-R) Youth Advisory Group members Belle Beasley, Molly McNeil, Nicole Klaer, and emerging artist Holly MacDonald.

Designed to increase youth engagement with the most significant public collection of art in regional Australia, the project kicked off with the creation and publication of six zines. Each publication featured interviews with emerging local creatives alongside selected works from the Art Gallery collection that correspond to the Gallery’s collecting areas of ceramics, sculpture, prints and drawings, photography, painting and new media.

The group are now looking to expand that engagement online with the development of an interactive digital platform and video series that will allow the community to continue to connect with the collection while the Gallery undergoes its $40 million expansion.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said it was fantastic to see these volunteers sharing their passion for the Gallery with other young people.

“By doubling the size of the Gallery, significantly increasing the exhibition space and delivering a suite of modern facilities, the $40 million expansion will deliver an upgraded gallery of international standing that will offer a valuable cultural tourism opportunity for Newcastle and the Hunter,” Cr Nelmes said.

“While the doors of Newcastle Art Gallery are closed for the construction, we are committed to ensuring the community can engage with our collection in as many ways as possible, which is why this innovative project by our Youth Advisory Group is such a fantastic idea.

“It’s also testament to the passion and commitment shown by the dedicated volunteers, who have continued to look outside the box to find ways to stay involved with our Gallery throughout this time.”

Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton said the Youth Advisory Group program had been running since 2018 and was designed to engage with people aged 18-30 to deliver youth-led programming while also providing early career learning opportunities.

This year’s group members are Aidan Gageler, Belle Beasley, Benji Crocker, Kar Mun Phoon, Molly McNeil, and Nicole Klaer.

“The six-member group is generally made up of tertiary students, practicing artists, writers or performers who are engaged and participating in Newcastle’s vibrant cultural scene,” Ms Morton said.

“They put forward a range of programs and activities they would like to see occur at the Gallery in their year of tenure, which they then deliver with assistance from Gallery staff.

“With much of our programming in the past few years being disrupted by COVID-19, the current Youth Advisory Group came up with an innovative project that simultaneously showcases the breadth of the Gallery’s collection and supports local emerging arts practitioners.

“The Y2C Project sees the creation of ‘by-youth, for-youth’ content and has been a wonderful means to promote conversation between Newcastle’s emerging artists and Newcastle Art Gallery’s collection.”

Youth Advisory Group member Molly McNeil said they had enjoyed collaborating with the Art Gallery and the emerging artists on this project and were looking forward to launching it on Saturday.

“From the outset, we really hoped to engage with local emerging artists, and we ended up doing that by bringing them into conversation with the huge collection at Newcastle Art Gallery,” Molly said.

“By building an array of projects around that goal, we’ve created a platform where the Newcastle’s emerging artists can be considered alongside the esteemed and reputable works and practices found in Newcastle Art Gallery’s collection.

“We’re so excited for the launch this weekend. Being able to see our teamwork come to life and to share that with others is going to be such a great experience.”

This project is supported by a $10,000 grant from Create NSW’s Audience Development Fund, a devolved funding program administered by Museums & Galleries of NSW on behalf of the NSW Government.

The Y2C launch party will take place at The Creator Incubator on Saturday 25 June from 6pm to 10pm, featuring a selection of Newcastle’s finest DJs, video installations featuring Y2C emerging artists, projections developed by David Lobb and Mikayla Nangle, artists stalls, a pop-up bar and food truck.

The event is free, but bookings are required. Visit www.nag.org.au to find out more about the Gallery’s expansion, Youth Advisory Group and the launch party.

Emerging artists who participated in the Y2C project included Gillian Adamson, Brigitte Beyer, Jaimie Carpenter, Jasmine Miikika Craciun, Ruby Hart, Jemima Hodge, Wolfe Jessie, Tegan Kinder, David Lobb, Holly Macdonald, Grace McMahon, Mikayla Nangle, Liz O’Brien, James Rhodes, Wednesday Sutherland and Emma Wilks.

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