Australians love the coast. In times past, we've seen it as refuge, an escape that is without doubt, the perfect holiday destination. Today we're not just visiting it, we live on it, and in increasing numbers, are turning our coastline into one of the most suburban in the world. With this in mind, its probably no surprise that the role, the very function of the beach, is changing. No longer just a place for a good swim or to watch a romantic sunset reminiscent of a scene from Home and Away, the beach is becoming a more sophisticated cultural jewel.
With the success of Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney's annual sculpture festival that curates an art experience between Bondi to Coogee (and attracts thousands of visitors a year), other beach-side festivals are popping up across Australia with other long established festivals are experiencing a revival of sorts with additional international attention and home-grown interest. In this way, the Brighton Jetty Classic Sculptures in Adelaide and the Swell Sculpture Festival in Queensland, are two local festivals connecting art and ideas with the dramatic natural landscape of the Australian coast.
The Brighton Jetty Classic, inspired by Sculpture by the Sea, perfectly combines sport and art to activate one of Adelaide's better known beach suburbs with hundreds of swimmers, and now even more, art lovers. "The combination of both arts and sport is a unique and successful community event. Sculptures large and small for outdoor and indoor display will be made from multi media compositions and techniques." says the Brighton Jetty Classic website. The community event was recognised for this innovation and nominated as a finalist in the 2012 Ruby Awards for South Australia.
The Swell Sculpture Festival is another community led initiative that relies heavily on volunteers and a dedicated project team. Swell Sculpture is now in its 12th year and in 2014 is focusing on environmental themes with 66 works on display from local, national, and international artists. In addition to the sculptures, the festival has a diverse program on offer. "Over 10 days, visitors can experience the sculptures, enjoy twilight walks, informative artist talks, wander through the Swell Smalls Gallery and participate in childrens' workshops." says Byron Shire News. The Swell Sculpture Festival creates an experience beyond the sculptures, while complimenting them, to cater for different audience groups and attract members of the public who might not otherwise attend an art gallery. This surely has to be one of its strengths.
While we celebrate these coastline festivals, making art and expressing culture on the beach is not new. As humans we've participated in cultural events and the creation objects on beaches for centuries (if not longer). What makes these festivals different is that their curated with site specific installs that tell a collective tell a story of people and place. A story that reflects contemporary issues and modern values.
Australians, a weird mob that can be at times both art snobs and uninterested spectators, are now consuming art (en masse) with sand between the toes. It's great for emerging and established artists, and for us to see the beach in a different light, activated in a new and interesting way, with art and the beach somehow out of context to make it feel exactly in context.
Here at TC we're excited to see where this collaboration between beach and gallery will evolve in the future. If it's anything like the recent (and growing) appreciation for street art around the world, we're bound to see an increased appreciation for the physical space and enhanced quality of art. Both spaces and cultural associations can only benefit from this temporary relationship that showcases some of Australia's best natural and cultural assets.
We'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below if you know a great art/beach festival!