“They’re lined up all the way down the stairs onto Bourke St.” We were standing in the middle of Rooftop Cinema at Melbournes six-storey Curtin House. It was the first Positive Posters exhibition. We had no idea if anyone would show up. We’d be allowed to use the venue on a Wednesday because it was their quiet night, now there was a 2 hour wait to get in.
My phone was going off with people trying to skip the line and get to the top to get a drink and see the art. We were all in a bit of shock. Around the edge of the bar was a fence that we’d cable tied the best 30 posters from the 300+ we’d received from over 50 countries in the weeks prior all responding to brief “design a poster about an issue you care about”.
That night was a blur of the best kind. People everywhere, groups of friends, curious solo’s, the friends and families of the artists all making their way around the space taking in the work piece by piece. Discussing and debating meaning and interpretation.
You could see people’s selves being moved and moulded by the work that was on the walls. You could see the young artists full with thrill as strangers choose their work to pause in front of and consider.
It was a new and incredible feeling to have been part of the glue that made that exhibition happen. The previous years work stresses and late nights vanished quickly and I was overcome with joy. Proud that we have introduced some new artists to Melbourne and Melbourne to some new artists.
This feeling is one I’ve been reflecting on a lot over the past couple of weeks as I try and decide what I’m going to work on next. That first exhibition was in November 2009 and a decade later I found myself having left all my work behind and taking a much needed break from running and organising businesses and events.
I was tired in a way that I’d never experienced. I told a story about taking a break to earn some money and reset a bit. I started a ux contract job and then the pandemic hit. I’ve been grateful for the work and security for what has been the better part of two years, but there has been a sadness building inside me.
The work I’ve been doing, while meaningful and important, is always missing something. The frustrating thing about knowing something is wrong for you is that it doesn’t necessarily tell you what is right. That in-between period is hard. And it’s been hard.
A couple of weeks ago I asked myself a question: in the last six months, when have I felt something close to the feeling of that first exhibition? When have I felt excited, connected? Can I circle those days on a calendar?
Yes, I can. There are two moments. Two times I’ve felt the feeling. Both shared with artists who have a vision for the world and their work in it that is so strong that you must either get on board or get out of the way. Two times I’ve been a sounding board, curator, Uber driver, tech support, emotional support, friend, radical believer.
These are the moments I care about. This is the work I love to do. Sitting in the space between dreams and delivery, with the artists, designers and creatives who keep our culture moving forward, up, down, left and right.
It’s this thought that has reset my direction for my work. Starting where you should start, but often forget to, understanding who you work for and why?
I have a deep belief in art and it’s roll in creating change in the world. I write that and I’m like “what does that even mean?”. But I know, because I’ve seen it and feel it and I believe that it’s true.
We need more artists creating more work. They need more support. We need more people seeing more art and connecting with it in deeper ways.
I’ve written pages and pages about it this week. A messy scratch pad of ideas and questions. “What does supporting artists look like in 2021?” “Where do I start?”
I’ve already started. Maybe I build something new, a new company. Maybe we buy a farm and create a space for artists to come and work. Maybe I join VSCO or Patreon or one of the other companies already supporting artists. Maybe it’s a bit of all of this.
I don’t know where this leads yet and that is good for now. This post is a fat sharpie arrow drawn on a map saying “this way”. That’s all.
It’s great feeling to be giving myself permission to come back to this place and get going on it. I’m excited for what comes next.