20 Mar 2020

BogArts – “A loose collective of loose units inspiring each other to make and create”

by John O’Brien

In 2018, a few local residents got together to see what we could do to promote art and creativity, inspiring ourselves and each other to keep on making stuff. The first step was meeting regularly to chat, and from that came BogArts.

What We Did

After a few small ventures, we took on the biannual Strathbogie Art Show and the previous organisers were rapt. Brainstorming, timelining, costing, refining and all the other planning stages occurred and, despite our initial restraint, soon expanded into a full-blown festival. Yikes …

A simple indoor art exhibition was joined by indoor and outdoor sculptures, paintings, photos, textiles and even a video loop (that deservedly won a prize).


A theme of ‘A Collection of Curiosities’ encouraged the oddest pieces from local artists and friends of the area. Helga Salwe’s retrospective photo collection and Nomad Art’s indigenous art collection further added to 163 pieces entered for sale.

A fancy catered and boozy opening night with four-piece jazz band, interactive dance performers and general decoration weirdness kicked it all off.

Our independent judges had a fantastic time sifting through the broad collection of oddities and eccentricities before announcing prizes and sponsors, then celebrating with lots of happy people.

A full weekend of art show followed before resetting the whole room on the Sunday night. By this time, our crew were toast but we dug deep and got it done.

Our crowning jewel was the Bridge to Bridge sculpture walk, running all week and for ever more. Participants were encouraged to install anything ephemeral, organic or compostable along the creek that glides around the township.

As a protected and ecologically sensitive area, the only materials allowed had to be natural. Many of the pieces were brilliant.

And this part was all completely low-tech. The only electronic devices anywhere near the creek came from Min Hunter’s esoteric soundscape recordings and playback.

A cool portable battery powered kit – Kaleidoloop sampler by Critter & Guitari replayed through a Roland AC-33 amp. Otherwise, it was all nature … in loops.

The final weekend started with a spoken word performance. 24 local orators gathered at the local church and delivered their finest repertoire to a full house.

We heard a range of original pieces in many styles and a bevy of classics to boot. For the timid of voice, there was a 12 and horn on a stick with a trusty 58. I didn’t use it for my rendition of ‘Said Hanrahan’ (voice projection and all that.)

Some quick roadie work got the speaker back to the hall, while the church morphed into an inspirational singing workshop. Fine voices, a fine leader (thanks Di) and some lovely natural acoustics had the room filled with sonorous melodies and harmonies.

To cap it all off we arranged a crazy dance and dress-up night. More decorations, more booze, more food and Hello Tut Tut for sonic mayhem and funky rhythms.

Wild and crazy costumes were donned for a cracking gig. A disappointing turnout from a normally very receptive community was the only sour note. Maybe the ‘Curious Gypsy Punk Masquerade Party’ theme got the old biddies confused.

How We Did It

After working out what we wanted to do, regular meetings concentrated on how we were going to do it. Being local and thrifty, we didn’t have much to play with. That’s when creative design and planning kicks in. We set a budget, got on to local businesses and community groups to help us out and were awarded a grant through the local shire.

Most of the extra monies went towards advertising and insurance. We ran a campaign over many platforms – print / online / organic word of mouth – but needed to pay for some of it.

We built a slick website and prepared some funky flyers to print and distribute. Where we could scrounge, we did. Where it made sense to invest, we did.

Our main asset was lots of free labour – ours! We held a few sheltered workshops to make decorations for the otherwise drab room. Many metres of bunting were fuelled by many more pizzas from the community oven.

We spent many hours planning for and then even more accepting, curating and hanging 160+ artworks. Setting up the room was a big job, but we brought in the mobile scaffold from home to make it easier.

Tech and Staging

With access to some art stands, we borrowed more from a nearby arts group and covered them strategically in black fabric. The Hall is lit by harsh OH flouros, so display specific hire lighting was budgeted, ending up with a whole bunch of QIs on arms.

They showed up the art pieces a treat, at the cost of heating up the whole room on a warm spring night. I shoulda known better, once being a trog and all. I may have also cooked a band or two in the past!

Cheapo LED floods borrowed from the school, a wonky old mirror ball for the corner, strip lights from someone’s porch, every lamo LX effect lying around – they all got incorporated, all cost next to nothing and all looked good.

PA Upgrade

Simultaneous to the whole festival, I applied for a shire grant to upgrade the PA facilities in our local Memorial Hall. We have an old pair of mounted EV 15 and horns driven by a trusty Yamaha amp. The old 16-4-2 desk has seen better days, but it all still does the job OK.

Under auspice I got a pool of funds together, adding some more portable powered speakers that could double up as wedges, fills or outdoor along with a few more mics to supplement the beaten-up old kit.

I also specced a sub for outdoor gigs where we have our pizza nights weekly over summer. I did my research and waited until Integrate to catch up with all the distributors and talk turkey, wangling fine deals on some sweet FBT speakers and Sennheiser mics.

Thanks guys – you know who you are.

On the final gig night, I rigged all of the funky new FBT X Pro 110A stage monitors and ran lines ready for the band to arrive but let go of FOH.

I regularly mix in this room but rarely get to enjoy myself doing so. It’s too much like (unpaid) work after all. So, I handed over to Jack Mithen and went to enjoy a guilt free beer or two!

Jack did a great job and the band sounded awesome on stage and off – I even had me a bit of a boogie on the floor, yeh. Finally felt a kick mic in this room too – the Sennhesiser e-602 was a nice addition.

Why We Did It and How It Turned Out

Because art. Because we all care (sometimes too much). Because we were looking for a fresh take on the often quaint country art show. And what we got was far from twee. Oddball, interesting, curious, even avant garde, along with a generous mix of more traditional faire.

We had some awesome entries and the breadth and depth of works were inspiring. It was even a bit much for some (“…not enough landscapes, dear.”), which means we succeeded on that count!

Of course, rotten luck intervened and the heavens opened up with a vengeance during the exhibition weekend. We still got solid numbers through the doors but many more stayed away.

All of the carefully prepared outdoor works also started their decay process in a hurry. Some washed away on the spot, some degraded a little and some are still there several months later.

Which is exactly what we wanted – just much quicker than intended.

The Learnings

We advertised festival dates but many took those as art show dates and we lost a few punters. We encouraged ambiguity in the artworks and staging and fully achieved this goal but our advertising may have been confusing as a result. Next time our message to the public will be clearer.

Display lighting as a concept was great but we employed the wrong technology. LED all the way next time.

Opening night scramble was anticipated but we still cut it a bit too close for comfort. Live and learn … maybe.

Perhaps overly ambitious in some areas, we still managed to cleverly cut the right corners and put on a slick set of productions on the cheap. The art show made money, the gig night lost some but we made that up later making and selling pizzas so it’s evens overall.

It’s A Wrap
Would we do it again? Dependent on how many other community caps I am likely to be wearing at the time, I’ll see how I go. For the whole group – yes.

We had a great time, put on an awesome set of events with minimal budget and all remained good friends to the end.

Sponsor thanks:
Shire of Strathbogie
Strathbogie Rec Club
Strathbogie Brewing Company
Maygars Hill Winery

CX Magazine – March 2020   

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