In 2017, ADC was successful in securing an Aboriginal Employment Program grant from Create NSW to employ a First Nations Creative Producer.
Lucy Simpson and Dennis Golding, both exceptional creative people, have been working with us over the past few months in this role. They have developed a program that not only complements but extends the ADC’s reputation and reach, enabling the organisation to connect with more Indigenous artists and to demonstrate the opportunities that exist for artists to work with us and find new ways to showcase Aboriginal art and design.
Our team has been enriched by having Lucy and Dennis with us. We are learning so much from them. Our appreciation for culture and our awareness of protocols is much deeper. This can only be beneficial for the way we operate, develop our programs and connect with people from all cultural backgrounds.
In this Q&A, Lucy and Dennis talk with ADC CEO and Artistic Director Lisa Cahill about themselves and their aspirations as ADC’s First Nations Creative Producers.
Who are you and what is your background?
Lucy: My name is Lucy Simpson, I am a Yuwaalaraay woman from north-west NSW (Walgett / Lightning Ridge / Angledool region) currently living in Sydney. I am a graduate of UNSW Art & Design, and in 2009 founded design studio and textiles label Gaawaa Miyay. My practice includes graphic and textile design as well as conceptual works and installation.
Dennis: My name is Dennis Golding and I am a Kamilaroi/Gamillaraay man born and raised in Sydney. I spent most of my childhood living in Redfern and now residing in Malabar. I’m currently in my final year studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) at UNSW Art & Design where I continue to develop my creative practice and building my professional experiences in the arts industry including working as an assistant curator.
Can you explain the role of First Nations Creative Producer at ADC from your perspective?
Lucy: The role of First Nations Creative Producer has been an invaluable opportunity for me to both learn and share. Design is my passion, and through my work at the Australian Design Centre I am able to share my passion and perspectives as an Aboriginal woman and designer, while learning invaluable insights and lessons from the leading centre for contemporary craft and design in the country. In addition to my own professional development and the exchange within the ADC, there have also been opportunities for me to explore and create avenues for other Indigenous practitioners, from exhibition to public programs, workshops and community based projects.. the best thing being the possibilities are endless and with passion and support the sky is the limit.
Dennis: I am fortunate to be given the opportunity to work at ADC as one of the First Nations Creative Producers. Within this role, I am able to demonstrate my skills for researching and developing programs to build a stronger audience and providing opportunities that promote Indigenous craft and design. The role allows me to work with other creative professionals that inspire me to identify and develop programs that supports our Indigenous communities, artists and designers. My experiences working in the role has led me to use my own networks of other local Indigenous organisations and communities to discuss ways in how we can strengthen our programs for our future makers and creating awareness to our young people.
What do you hope to achieve working at ADC?
Lucy: My hope is to make the most of this incredible opportunity. With the current focus on the sector and support through roles like these, I hope to build on an awareness of Indigenous design, cultural practice and contemporary culture in this country, highlighting the beauty, sophistication and unique perspective. I also hope to work towards generating more opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers, artisans and communities which both showcases and supports Indigenous design and ways of thinking / doing.
Dennis: My responsibilities within this role involves researching and developing programs with a strong Indigenous focus. It is with my passion in Indigenous art and design that I aim to develop greater opportunities for ADC to engage with our Indigenous communities and to also promote Indigenous design practice. ADC has a great history with Indigenous design and practitioners and I aim to be part of the development for new projects that exhibits emerging makers and building relations with other organisations that strive for Indigenous excellence.
Do you think this role has the capacity to grow an appreciation for Aboriginal craft and design?
Lucy: The more we talk about it, support it and generate the opportunities, the more the broader audience will understand and appreciate it. Beyond that, through an increased awareness of Indigenous craft making practice and philosophy, we create opportunities for others to learn more about who we are and the way we do things from a cultural perspective.. infused with essence, story and notions of place and sustainability.
Dennis: I believe that the role of the First Nations Creative Producer at ADC will extend their knowledge, experience and skills to produce educational tools for learning Indigenous design practice as well as history and culture. The role already promotes a strong presence by being in the ADC space and it is through their connection to country, community and culture that they have can develop a greater understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal craft and design.
Aboriginal people are probably not as well known as designers as they are painters. Is this true? Why do you think this is?
Lucy: Aboriginal design is the oldest in the world.. I think people are familiar with ‘art’ or painting as a tool of communication and expression of culture but only subconsciously recognise design in the same way. Once we talk about the boomerang and functional objects people begin to open their minds to further understanding what Aboriginal design is. Often there is a stereotype about Aboriginal design being purely aesthetic or one dimensional, but it is almost always so much deeper than that, similar to art in that it is created and used to communicate or share a story, but unique in that it has a function and is the tool which offers the solution to a problem.
ADC has a long history of working with Aboriginal makers and designers. How do you think the organisation can make better connections and enable more opportunities?
Lucy: I believe the identified role of First Nations Creative Producer / Researcher provides many opportunities for further engagement with Indigenous designers and artisans through Indigenous-led projects and programs which engage with Indigenous peoples on a different level, which would definitively create more opportunities and much deeper connections.
Dennis: With a history of working with Aboriginal makers and designers, ADC has built a great profile to promote more programs that may cordially invite new and emerging designers to be part of future programs. Because of this history, ADC could make use of past programs and exhibitions as part of recapturing those moments to a new audience.
Through our profile, we can make better connections with outreach programs that allow us
to be part of community events such as seminars, markets events, skills workshops and visits to schools and institutions. The First Nations Creative Producer plays a role in this idea of outreach as a contact to community and an agency to discuss opportunities. This opportunity will also show ADC’s history of working with Aboriginal makers and designers so that it may encourage new and emerging makers.
How do you think ADC can grow Aboriginal audiences?
Lucy: The ADC can work to grow Aboriginal audiences through community led discussions and forums, opportunities for collaborative works and projects, and a focus on ongoing exhibitions which engage designers and artisans from a diverse range of disciplines and backgrounds.
Dennis: Building Aboriginal audiences may benefit from the role of the First Nations Creative Producer as it is understood there is a presence and opportunity for Indigenous peoples to engage with the role holder.
Can you name two or three Aboriginal artists who you find inspiring?
Lucy: Lola Greeno, Lorraine Connelly-Northey and Aunty Euphemia Bostock.
Dennis: Tony Albert, Lucy Simpson and Reko Rennie
Read more about Indigenous craft and design at the Australian Design Centre
Image: Installation view: Indigenous Design. Lucy Simpson, Necklace for a Boy 2016. Photo: Boaz Nothman.