Kat Pengelly, a Ballarat-based practitioner, creates wearable art.
“What I like about (wearable art),” says Kat, “is we get out of the gallery and onto the streets. More people can experience art who may not want to go to a gallery, or who may not feel comfortable going into a gallery.”
In 2015, Kat’s work Fashion for Funerals was supported by the Regional Arts Fund. “I created Fashion for Funerals in response to my mother’s death. I realised I had no coping strategies for grief, which caused me to look at our culture and how we respond to death. I don’t think we do it very well.”
After appearing at the Nati Frinj Biennale in 2015, Fashion for Funerals featured as part of Romancing the Skull at the Art Gallery of Ballarat in 2017. In 2018, it will appear at the Bendigo Fashion Festival and as part of the Artlands Victoria Out and About program.
In the funding landscape, it can be challenging for artists to find ways to support an idea, project, or program beyond the initial grant. Many granting bodies will explicitly prohibit repeat applications, or have restrictions around remounting or showcasing existing work.
For artists, this creates challenges to sustainability. Notes Kat, “often a missing link in the creative process is getting your work to market. (I’m) so busy making, so busy producing events, that I don’t get my work to market enough to generate the sales required to continue with my practice.”
One way of securing this link to market can be through sponsorship.
The Bendigo Fashion Festival was established in 2007 by the City of Greater Bendigo to support Bendigo traders. From small beginnings centred in the downtown area, the event has grown to be ‘Bendigo-wide’, with a focus on showcasing what Bendigo has to offer – and encouraging the local community to shop local first.
Dannielle Downs, Marketing Manager at Bendigo Marketplace and Chair of the Bendigo Fashion Festival, sees local business as key contributors to the success of local events – and the ways they might do it can be multi-faceted.
“I think sponsorship is the key thing,” suggests Dannielle. “It doesn’t have to be monetary, but monetary is always good. It can be in-kind, it can be products and services.
“The Bendigo Fashion Festival has some incredible in-kind partners. They might not give us money but they might save thousands of dollars in make-up, or hair, or in creative agency fees.
“If businesses aren’t in a position to sponsor, I think purchasing tickets, sharing local events within their social platforms, I think all of that helps. We need people to get along to the events, just as importantly as we need big businesses to get behind us and sponsor what we do.”
Dannielle and the Bendigo Fashion Festival also see the support of local artists as important to the local economy.
“Artists are local businesses themselves. They might not be a traditional small business with a shopfront… but they are following their dreams and passion and putting all of that effort and money and everything behind what they do to give it a real go.
“I think in turn that supports our community and supports a prosperous economy for all of us.”
The links between regional centres, and the connections to tourism, are also potential connections for artists and business. Says Dannielle, “we came across Kat in some Ballarat tourism communications and what she was doing just aligned so perfectly and we had to meet her, and had to see whether a partnership could blossom with the Bendigo Fashion Festival.”
For Kat, the support of sponsors like the Bendigo Fashion Festival is a path to viability as an artist.
“Right now, the clothes and the photographs of the clothes are in cabinets in the biggest retail centre in Bendigo, which has huge foot traffic, 90,000 per week, walking past my art work.”
This kind of support wouldn’t be possible for Kat on her own, she continues. As well as providing cash sponsorship, the Bendigo Fashion Festival and Bendigo Marketplace have provided exhibition space in-kind.
Continues Kat, “What we do is very expensive. To hire that exhibition space from Dannielle (rather than receive it in-kind), its worth over $5,000, and the added marketing support from the Fashion Festival, from Bendigo Marketplace… it means that we can get our work out there further.
“That support is crucial in helping us to establish ourselves as artists generating our own income.”
Conversations about legacy, sustainability and building partnerships will feature at Artlands Victoria.
As Regional Arts Victoria gears up to deliver the event this week, we look forward to hearing more stories about how regional artists and their supporters are forging new partnerships in their communities.
You can read more about (and buy tickets to) the Bendigo Marketplace Bendigo Fashion Festival Retail & Designer Runway and Kat’s Fashion for Funerals Exhibition at this link.
Read more about the Artlands Victoria ‘Out and About’ program at this link.
Find out about the Regional Arts Fund here.
Image: Feathers by Faith featured in Kat Pengelly’s Fashion for Funerals project. Image by Michelle McFarlane.