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Things are getting HOTA as Coast warms to arts

The team at the Gold Coast’s HOTA (Home of the Arts) is putting its money where its mouth is, with applications now open for its 2020 Creative Development Program.

Feb 12, 2020, updated Feb 12, 2020
HOTA chief executive Criena Gehrke says the Gold Coast is built on a forward-thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and the city's artists are provided with a similar feeling of freedom.

HOTA chief executive Criena Gehrke says the Gold Coast is built on a forward-thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and the city's artists are provided with a similar feeling of freedom.

The program has a combined pool of $200,000 and in-kind support from HOTA and is open to any individual artists or arts companies currently working or living on the Gold Coast or developing a body of work there.

After an enthusiastic response to the program in its first year, when 200 applications were received, and 12 projects were successful in receiving funding, HOTA’s chief executive Criena Gehrke said she was excited to see what this year’s artists would submit.

“If you call yourself HOTA – Home of the Arts – then you’ve got to love artists and you’ve really got to support artists,” Gehrke told InQueensland.

“Last year, with the support of City of Gold Coast, we developed this creative development program and it really was an open call for local Gold Coast artists or those with a connection to the Gold Coast in the region or who are making substantial pieces of work here to apply to experiment, play and have the time and the space to create new work without the pressure of having to present that work at the end of that creative development program.

“I would anticipate that there will be a similar level of interest in the program this year, particularly when you see the success rate of the projects that we did support – there was some really outstanding, interesting work that was developed through that program.

Since opening on the site of the former Gold Coast Arts Centre in 2018, the HOTA precinct at Surfers Paradise has been instrumental in helping to change outdated perceptions of the city’s arts scene.

Set among parklands, it features a large outdoor stage, as well as two indoor stages, and a $60.5 million, six-level art gallery currently is currently under construction and due for completion early next year.

“We had the Commonwealth Games opportunity and things like Bleach Festival emerging and now being a highly significant event on the national stage,” Gerhke said.  “There has been strategy behind it and strong financial support for artists and there has been growing actual infrastructure to support that.

“So I think it’s been a number of things in a perfect storm, and when you add to that that the Gold Coast is built on a forward-thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, then the artists are provided with that same freedom, so they’re not bound by tradition at the moment, or long-established companies.  There’s this kind of permission to do things differently.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Grayson Millwood, co-director of Helpmann Award-winning dance and theatre collective The Farm.

“Any venue that opens a huge outdoor stage with a concert from Tim Minchin, and follows directly with a residency from Laurie Anderson is making a pretty bold statement of intent,” Millwood said.

“But it is the support of local artists and the energy that these artists bring to HOTA that is now finally becoming evident in every corner of the building.

“It feels like the Gold Coast is in that sweet spot in the cultural growth of a city, with a steadily growing creative energy and talent, but without the established expectations and ‘scenes’.”

The Farm was one of last year’s successful applicants for the interactive installation The Sanctuary, which explored the emotional needs of ageing men, and Millwood said the work “simply would not have happened without HOTA’s creative development grant”.

“It was born from ideas that have been knocking around in conversations at The Farm for a couple of years now, but it was only inviting [HOTA head of programming] Virginia Hyam into these conversations that started to progress things forward and changed our chats into plans,” Millwood said.

The Sanctuary certainly had a presentation outcome, but we were also able to use this forest, cabin and its stories to inspire a new collaboration with Todd Macdonald of La Boite theatre, and it was here that we truly felt free of external pressures.”

Gehrke said last year’s successful applicants covered a broad spectrum ranging from dance, to performing arts, visual arts and storytelling and she had no preconceived notions about this year’s submissions.

“We don’t necessarily end-game what the cohort that are successful going through looks like,” she said.  “We have $200,000 allocated in financial support and then there’s the additional venue producing support that we provide and we adopt the attitude that we wait and see what comes in.

“We genuinely want to see what those ideas are and assess or support them on merit, potential and bold ideas.

“As a city we’re not stuck in tradition and we’re hearing it, in terms of the precinct, a lot of chat out there nationally about ‘what is going on on the Gold Coast?’. We’re kind of the city to watch and we’re delighted by that.”

Applications can be submitted to hota.com.au/creativedevelopmentprogram, and close on February 27.

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