Art centres

Remote community art centres

‘Art centres’ is shorthand for locally owned Indigenous artists’ cooperatives that are dotted around the continent, often in the remotest places. There are more than 90 throughout Australia. Their legal structure is as membership based non-profit Associations or Corporations. They vary in size – some have 10 members and others have 300+ members. Felicity, owner of Songlines has been a prominent advocate for art centres since 1986 and is very happy to share her extensive knowledge of them with you.

Remote Art centres for authentic Aboriginal art

Vistors at Buku Larrnngay Mulka Art Centre in Yirrkala, NE Arnhem Land

Art centres are producing some of the most dynamic and interesting contemporary arts and crafts in the world. Some art centres focus on a specific art form whereas others create products in a wide range of media – the diversity of creative output is extraordinary.  A number of art centres create paintings on canvas, bark, paper and fabrics and there are also carvings, sculptures, limited edition prints, natural fibre weavings, textiles and hand-printed fabrics. There are art centres creating multimedia too. All are owned and valued by their members and are the vibrant hearts of their communities.

In our interpretive signage at Songlines we have included information about each of the art centres we represent, including a small map. You can see that some are found deep in the desert, others are in the tropics or by the coast, from one side of the country to the other.

Warmun Art Centre - photo credit: Frances Mocnik

Warmun Art Centre – photo credit: Frances Mocnik

Art centres are dynamic social enterprises that generate income and livelihoods for their members which is especially important where economic opportunities are very limited.  Art centres also support the social and cultural aspirations and needs of members, giving assistance with transport, visits to country, ceremonies and funerals. As non-profits the proceeds from sales are returned to the entity to make it sustainable.

It may be possible to visit some art centres, however, COVID has reduced access. Contact peak bodies (below) or art centres direct to find out the status of access.

In each region of Australia remote community art centres are members of peak bodies. These organisations provide advocacy, resourcing, referral and support services to their members. Each of these organisations has comprehensive information about member organisations and website links – so go visit them online!

Top End: ANKA – Working together to keep art, country and culture strong since 1987

Central Australia: Desart – Supporting Aboriginal Art Centres of Central Australia

South Australia: Ananguku Arts – Strong Arts, Strong Culture, Strong Communities.

Far North Queensland: Indigenous Art Centre Alliance – Our Vision: We support culturally strong best practice Indigenous Arts enterprises