Still the City of Arts?

IS Fremantle still the city of arts, or are we living in the past and believing an urban myth? 

There is little doubt that our port city lacks good, substantial and significant public art.

Even the percentage for the arts for new development appears to have little impact on adding great works to our city. 

The Little Lane residential development installed a children’s play work, created by artist Dave Spencer, but is it public art or a playground? 

Other developers only put murals on their walls, or have semi-interior public art, such as the Rick Vermey work at the Liv apartments in Queen Victoria Street.

The substantial Aboriginal artwork that was planned for Walyalup Koort has not been funded and might never be realised, which would be a real shame. 

Fremantle council does not have anywhere near enough funding for public art and seems to be spending most of it on the FAC Print Awards. 

That should be addressed at the next budget considerations.

Fremantle has seen the loss of Kulcha, Deckchair Theatre, Fly by Night Club, Harbour Theatre. Spare Parts Puppet Theatre have moved to the Claremont Showgrounds, because the state government failed to maintain their building at Pioneer Park. 

Will they ever return to Freo?

We also lost the significant FotoFreo international photography show, and Sculpture @ Bathers is battling to get enough sponsorship.

There are not many commercial galleries left in Fremantle. 

Japingka Gallery is the oldest one left, and have been showing great Aboriginal art for three decades at High Street, but ArtMarx gallery went digital a few months ago and are only online. 

The Glen Cowans photo gallery has been operating next to the historic Roundhouse for more than a decade, and Greg James has regular art shows in his J Shed gallery. There are also a few small galleries in South Fremantle.

There are occasional art shows at PS Art Studio, Kidogo Arthouse, Artsource, and the Moores Contemporary Art Gallery, but often these spaces are vacant and closed.

On the up side; the Fremantle Arts Centre has developed from a provincial exhibition space 20-plus years ago, to a serious national art gallery. 

The annual Revealed Aboriginal art market and exhibition is one of the most significant indigenous art shows in Australia. 

The FAC also has fantastic concerts on the south lawn.

The Blues&Roots Festival has disappeared, and the Laneway Festival relocated to Perth, but the WA government funded the invigorating High Voltage event, with bands on the back of trucks parading through the city. 

On the 24th of this month Freo will have a big America’s Cup concert with the Hoodoo Gurus, Baby Animals, Voyager and Slim Jim & The Fatts Band on Victoria Quay.

On top of all that artists are struggling to find affordable studios and art spaces to exhibit their work in Fremantle, let alone live in our port city. So is Freo still the City of Arts, or are we pretending, and just using the slogan for marketing purposes?

Roel Loopers

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