The only peak body for Indigenous visual arts in Western Australia, Aboriginal Art Centre Hub WA (AACHWA) are keenly focused on growing the employment outcomes of WA’s Indigenous artists.

Born from WA Aboriginal art market Revealed, AACHWA was originally a project of Country Arts WA.

Revealed showcases the works of emerging Indigenous artists and provides professional development for artists through symposiums, exhibitions and a market day.

After identifying the need for a WA peak body in 2009, Country Arts WA took the charge to create AACHWA.

In 2014, AACHWA’s Aboriginal Advisory Committee decided to separate from Country Arts WA and become its own entity.

Officially incorporated in 2015, AACHWA’s eight founding members were:

  • Martumili Artists (Newman, WA)
  • Mungart Boodja Art Centre (Albany, WA)
  • Roebourne Art Group (Roebourne, WA)
  • Tjukurba Gallery/Birriliburu Artists (Wiluna, WA)
  • Wirnda Barna Artists (Mount Magnet, WA)
  • Yamaji Art (Geraldton, WA)
  • Walkatjurra Cultural Centre (Leonora, WA)
  • Spinifex Arts Project (Tjuntjuntjara, WA).
Agnes Armstrong and Peggy Griffiths recording stories at Waringarri Arts. Photo by Glenn Iseger Pilkington.

Coming up to the five-year anniversary of AACHWA’s independence, CEO Chad Creighton said a lot of time and energy has been put into setting a strong foundation for the organisation.

“Making sure we have policies, procedures and all that groundwork,” Mr Creighton said.

“Our membership is slowly growing.”

Currently, AACHWA is federally funded through the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program and is in the process of applying for state funding as well.

“[This] will mean our organisation will grow and will be able to better service the Aboriginal art centres in WA,” Mr Creighton said.

 

Professional development for regional artists

Since beginning with eight members, AACHWA has expanded to 14 members across the state.

“We’ve had new membership come on from the desert region, close to the border,” Mr Creighton said.

“We’ve also recently had [art centres from] the Kimberley … [and a] large part is from the Pilbara and the Midwest.”

For all these arts centres, a large part of AACHWA’s new strategy going forward is professional development and training for artists.

“One of the things we’re doing is we’ve partnered up with the leading [art] institutions in Perth,”

“The state gallery, the state museum to deliver professional development opportunity to Aboriginal arts workers.”

The inaugural program was held in February this year and involved six arts workers assisting in the installation of the Desert River Sea exhibition that featured at the Art Gallery of WA.

Throughout the program artists received unique insight into conservation, preservation and curation of art at galleries and museums.

“Next year we’re hoping to deliver that again in partnership with the museum and gallery … [but we] still have to secure the funding for that,” Mr Creighton said.

 

A model of success

As the WA peak body for Indigenous visual arts, AACHWA continues to foster economic benefits for and within the communities where these centres are based across the state.

“The key thing is that art centres are community hubs themselves that provide enormous benefit to community,” Mr Creighton said.

The CEO said there are many employment outcomes and community benefits that are direct results of arts centres’ operations, including employing Aboriginal arts workers from local communities and participating as hosts for job seekers in the Commonwealth’s Community Development Program (CDP).

Camilia Samson (Roebourne Art Group), Kyra Johnson (Yamaji Arts), Mauretta Drage (Northampton Old School), AACHWA Arts Worker Internship Program, training at Art on the Move, Perth 2019. Photo by Ron Bradfield.

“We also support art centres who come through Revealed and market their work there [and] also to the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair … where artists sell and market their work,” Mr Creighton said.

“[We] generate income through the sale of artwork … doing things that generate the economy … people get opportunity to travel and see other places outside of their community through the arts centre when they go to exhibitions and markets and other national events.”

Mr Creighton said there is a wealth of health and wellbeing outcomes for both youth and Elders as well, particularly when arts centres run on-country activities which allow artists to go out and paint on country.

“People just … come to life when they go back to country … 80-year-olds just have this sort of [youth] about them,” Mr Creighton said.

On country painting also allows for intergenerational knowledge exchange in culturally appropriate environments.

Mr Creighton said a lot of AACHWA’s work is simply providing “wrap around support” to art centres supporting Indigenous artists.

“These are social enterprises that have existed for decades now and are proven models of success.”

The CEO also highlighted the Indigenous Art Code as central to setting the standards of ethical practice in the Indigenous art market.

“Art centres sign up to the Indigenous Art Code [and] they put in place those practices,” Mr Creighton said.

“It’s really been a safeguard in regional Australia against … immoral practices.”

To learn more about the work AACHWA does, visit: http://aachwa.com.au/.

By Hannah Cross