New plans for Laughing Waters artist in residence program

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Laughing Waters is once again on its way to being the home to an artist-in-residence program.

Council this week approved entering into a new lease agreement with Parks Victoria for the two properties involved in the program – “River Bend House” and “Birrarung House” both located on Laughing Waters Road in Eltham.

The Laughing Waters Artist Residency was an important arts and cultural development program of Council that ran from 2001 to 2015.

The properties at Laughing Waters – or Garambi Baan – are culturally and historically significant, with River Bend designed by Alistair Knox and Birrarung by Gordon Ford, two highly influential and important architects.

The Victorian Government’s recent approval of Planning Scheme Amendment (C125) again allows the use of the buildings for an artist residency program.

Residency Projects will be engaged to run the artist residency program, with Council providing $30,000 a year in funding for the next five years.

Nillumbik Mayor Karen Egan, who is Chair of Council’s Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee, said Laughing Waters Arts Program was an exciting and significant project for the Shire.

“This is the icing on the cake for the Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee in terms of all it has achieved for the arts in the Shire, starting with the increase in funding for the Nillumbik Prize,” Cr Egan said.

Sugarloaf Ward Councillor Jane Ashton said an artist in residency program has been and will now continue to be a significant commitment to the artistic legacy of Nillumbik.

“It’s critical that we give emerging artists an inspirational space, surrounded by nature and close to the Yarra to explore their creativity,” Cr Ashton said.

“Laughing Waters is a very, very significant area and we owe it to the previous custodians of the land that we as a council value it.”

Cr Peter Clarke said the arrangement was four years in the making, requiring persistence and collaboration by all stakeholders.

“This artist in residency program has generated some very important art projects in its time,” Cr Clarke said.

“I’m hopeful the next generation of this program will link with the Wurundjeri, which is an important step forward.

“This is the culmination of much effort but it has been well worth it. The local community values the arts highly and understands its importance in the cultural, social and economic sense so it is a great pleasure for us as a Council to bring this initiative back to life.”

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