This week, DADAA’s Creative Producer Chris Williams installs the final exhibition at the Freight Gallery before DADAA relocates to its new premises at the Fremantle Old Boys’ School.
Launched in 2004, the intimate and accessible Freight Gallery has been a signature program of DADAA’s, a warm and friendly professional space for artists of all abilities. Close on 200 exhibitions have showcased the work of thousands of artists in solo and group exhibitions. The Gallery – with a good portion of its exhibited works created just down the hallway in the busy Freight Studio – has kick-started dozens of artists’ careers, generated revenue from artwork sales of up to $60,000 in some years, and brought together artists with disability and the broader community in countless evenings of celebration.
“When I arrived, what is now a light and airy exhibition space was a just a plain, pretty dark room with small tinted windows,” says Chris. “We got funding from Lotterywest and then Department of Education, Employment and Training for modest alterations in 2004 and for the first three years of the Freight Gallery and Studio program in mental health. Additional funding from DCA in 2009 meant we could install proper lighting and exhibition panels, and enlarge the windows. This really opened the space up to natural light, the river and people passing by.”
Australia Council for the Arts funding has also been vital to Freight’s long-term success, as has Healthway’s, increasingly through the Act-Belong-Commit campaign.
“I think the biggest success of the Freight Gallery is that for artists, especially artists with a lived experience of mental health or disability, this has been their space,” says Chris. “It’s easy for artists to access this as a professional exhibition opportunity. Staff are approachable and showing work is affordable – there are no big commissions charged. So it’s great for first-time exhibiting artists and there is scope for self-management and curation.
“And because we’ve been running the Freight program for 14 years, there is now an active group of experienced artists engaged in exchanges with emerging artists around professional development and career paths.
“There have been so many memorable moments – like the Western Desert basket weaving exhibition in the early days, and the Ducks fundraising night a few years later. These were incredibly successful events. On an individual scale, one that stands out for me is Nicky Vervest’s solo fibre exhibition. The medium gave the exhibition its coherence, but the range of work was so broad and so amazingly random in a creative way. I remember thinking what an achievement it was that someone’s hands had found, selected, bound and shaped every fibre in that show.”
DADAA moves to the Fremantle Old Boys’ School in mid-July. Gallery spaces there are yet to be named.
Freight’s final exhibition, the NEXUS 2017 celebration, opens on Thursday 18 May, from 4 – 5.30pm. View the ‘What’s On?’ section of the website for more details.