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Victorian First Peoples Art and Design Fair looks to bring 'whole gamut' on debut in 2025

Jarred Cross -

Inaugural Victorian First Peoples Arts and Design Fair senior project manager Janina Harding has "big plans" for seeing creatives from across the state showcase their culture drawing on their strengths.

The Creative Victoria First Peoples Directions Circle-driven initiative debuts in 2025.

On launching it at Melbourne Art Fair on Thursday, actor, writer and Directions Circle member Tony Briggs said a Victorian-focused First Nations art fair is monumental.

"For far too long, our distinct culture and art practice has been on the periphery. That's about to change. We will finally join our interstate counterparts," he said.

"From 2025 a biannual fair, will enable the networking, support artists and designers to expand their business practice, platform new ideas and bold new looks and strengthen the first people's creative industries here in Victoria."

Ms Harding said next year is likely to be an "exhibition space", but if it's anything like Cairns Art Fair - which she was artistic director of for eight years, will hopefully balloon out past fitting into humble spaces in years going forward.

She said the pool of talent, cultural diversity and different mediums to utilise across the state, it's regions and Country is there and ready.

"The beauty of this brief that I've got, it's not any art, its design as well," Ms Harding told National Indigenous Times.

"I'm thinking about furniture making in Gippsland (for example), stuff is happening in the forests all around Victoria…and as traditional owners of this country they have access to that they can get access to that."

She's already started engaging with local councils to move artists into out of use shopfronts and industrial spaces as their workshops with the existing Melbourne Art Fair and NGV also potential collaboration partners.

Whatever an artist's chosen field or connection to place, she said it's all about authenticity.

"You've got to be within your culture, to make the art,"

"'I'm not about money here. It's about our culture and preserving our culture. And that will come through with all the different things that we're going to be doing here.

"I did the whole gamut of the arts (in Cairns). There was theatre, there was dance, performance arts, there's all sorts of things you can bring into it."

Ms Harding said it's also an opportunity to educate wider Australia and "open up their mind" to the breadth of First Peoples culture.


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