In April this year, the Cementa Arts Festival once again brought vibrancy and innovation to the the small town of Kandos in NSW. There could have been a post-industrial void caused by the closure of the town’s major industry, the cement works. However the art festival and its spin-offs have brought thousands of visitors to the town and created links with artists whose fresh perspectives the locals are slowly warming to.
Kandos used to be home to the largest cement works in the Southern Hemisphere and was even originally named for its links with the cement and mining industry. When the plant closed down in 2012 many jobs were lost and it was feared that the town would die.
Ann Finegan, an academic and contemporary arts worker, had a bigger vision however. She saw the closure of the cement factory as an ‘opportunity for transformation’.
“We believe the presence of this industrial heritage in the rural heartland of NSW provides an ideal context for the demonstration of contemporary art’s capacity to describe, engage, critique and celebrate both the world and our living in it.”
Artists doing residencies in Finnegan’s high-street art space, which was previously a haberdashery, began engaging with the community and the idea for the Cementa festival was born. This focus on community engagement and working with the regional setting has carried through to become a dominant flavour of the biennial festival.
“Artists cannot be in the festival unless they have done a residency in Kandos or have work related to the town in some way,” says Finegan. “We’re really working to deepen regional engagement.”
This year’s Cementa Arts Festival hosted more than 60 artists and is a heartening example of what is possible for small rural towns transitioning from an industrial heritage.
Repost ~ Cementa arts festival: building a cultured environment at Kandos by Katie Milton in The Sydney Morning Herald
Read more ~ Cementa Arts Festival Website