The challenges, disappointments and tragedies experienced around the globe in 2020 are well known and have affected all of us, our families, our friends and our communities. Economically, environmentally, socially and culturally, the inequities we face are stark reminders of the work we need to do now for humanity and the planet.
Australian Design Centre’s year began with an exciting new program. We started with the hope that the year would see a return to full funding and with it future opportunities for designers and crafts practitioners. Decisions to redistribute funding very early in the Covid-19 pandemic meant that organisations such as ours with an excellent track record were denied funding. While this was disappointing and has long term ramifications, we had, and continue to have, full confidence in our capacity to survive and thrive. We have proven our resilience, our agility and the strength of support that comes from communities of practice and a community that knows the value of creativity.
We were fortunate to have a relatively short closure period from March until early June affecting just one planned exhibition period. To keep the community safe and healthy, restrictions on numbers in the Centre have meant that our visitation was smaller than normal and event activity was much reduced. Our Covid-safe plan enabled us to continue to do much of what we had planned for the year in a safe way.
Whether working remotely or reconfiguring programs to be Covid- safe or digital, the ADC team worked tirelessly to change up the way we worked to create new initiatives, support makers and designers and connect with our audience across multiple platforms. I am grateful to everyone in my small team who did not hesitate to make the most out of the experience while juggling multiple things in their personal lives.
The exhibition program presented some fine exhibitions including the twentieth anniversary exhibition WORKSHOPPED20, Seed Stitch Contemporary Textile Award and two new exhibitions created in response to Covid-19 – Isolate Make: Creative Resilience in a Pandemic and Design/Isolate. Both of these Covid-19 related exhibitions were borne out of a need to support, both financially and in spirit, creative practitioners who had planned projects suspended due to Covid-19.
For Design/Isolate we asked 100 creative people to journal about their Covid-19 experience and provided them with a small handmade journal. Sixty people returned their journals – a privileged insight into sixty lives lived through a testing time. All of them spoke about hope for change in the future. NSW designer Lucy Simpson responded with a beautiful painted journal that spoke directly of her relationship to country and in response to the questions we posed she said:
This period of isolation has been complex, uncertain and trying on many levels. I have been able to navigate this space, process events and maintain a level of balance through the busyness of my hands. Marking time with tangible thought and mapping of moments of exchange and memory through making, drawing, painting and remembering.
I have used my journal as a means to communicate time, place and relationships through connections to mark making and visual storytelling and relationships with Gamilaraay/ Yuwaalaraay country story philosophy and language.
My hope is that we will emerge from this time of isolation and separation, sickness and conflict remembering and understanding the importance of relationships and responsibility - both to each other and to gunimaa (the mother/earth).
Three exhibitions were presented in collaboration with touring partners: CONCRETE art design architecture and FUSE Contemporary Glass Prize with JamFactory and Tamworth Textile Trienniale OPEN HOUSE with Tamworth Regional Art Gallery. It was a joy to bring these exceptional exhibitions to a Sydney audience.
With ADC On Tour we postponed the Sydney launch of our new exhibition Made/Worn: Australian Contemporary Jewellery but sent it straight out on tour launching at Glasshouse Port Macquarie in June. Three other exhibitions continued their national tours with some adjustments for Covid-19.
Sydney Craft Week Festival in October was just what the community needed – a celebration of making. The festival was a great success and included our Covid-safe outdoor makers market.
Covid-19 constrained opportunities for makers to sell their work throughout the year and so we responded with a program called Object 150 where buyers could commission a unique handmade work from a maker for $150. 18 makers had 60 commissions through this program and ADC was Highly Commended with a NSW Imagine Award for the initiative.
Many thanks to all who we have worked with throughout the year from the creative practitioners to our volunteer board and all of our partners and supporters. I firmly believe that creative practice is strong, resilient and what we need for a better future.
Read the Annual Report 2020
Image: Opening event for Seed Stitch Contemporary Textile Awards 2020. Photo: Rhiannon Hopley.