424 Brunswick Street Fortitude Valley | It was a Belltower for artists and designers in the 1980s | Maria Cleary | Maria Cleary Design
My working life as a Brisbane based multi-disciplinary artist spans more than 35 years. I have followed the ARI Remix Project’s development with interest, especially with its focus upon my own cohort and the heady days of the 1980s! I believe it is important now to continue – diversifying the project with additional content from 1970s then on to the present day, progressively documenting emerging ARIs. Bringing together heritage content in this way will make this project even more significant, activating diverse cultural experiences for new and online audiences, artists, students, researchers, change makers and digital community builders. I understand the importance of what we now call Artist Run Initiatives (ARIs). During the 1980s, as an emerging textile artist and designer, I formed connections with several local, self-styled artist run initiatives, and forging enduring creative networks. I established my own studio alongside other independent visual artists and designers within the Belltower/Empire Office Building in Fortitude Valley in 1984, the place we now know, and have loved ever since 2001, as the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.
ARI’s at this time provided many artists like me with a sense of community and purpose, as well as a sense of an openness to the possibilities of what making art could be about. They were valued as friendly safe and informal places to exhibit and experiment, gain exposure and document works, to take creative and intellectual risks, and build audiences and appetites for new work. It is also important to note that collaborations initiated at this time within the context of our highly eclectic, self- managed ARIs scaffolded creative and commercial endeavours for many of us in a manner that ultimately underpinned our capacity to maintain successful professional lives as artists to this day. Even as we participated in Brisbane’s independent art and cultural scene in our emergent years, there was a sense of the significance of our activity, however to date, significant Queensland artist-run documentation, social memories and ephemera representing a diversity of insider perspectives from artists involved directly and indirectly in ARIs from the ‘1970 to Now’ period has not been collected and published. In my current professional role as a curator, designer and exhibitions manager in the cultural heritage (performing arts) sector, I am acutely aware of the value and necessity of creating and preserving this collection.