SOTA Provovation: Why do you art?

I have a regular train buddy, a colleague in the arts, for my hour commute home from work. Some weeks we talk about books, movies and television shows, others we talk about the arts, society and our dreams for the future. Two weeks ago we couldn’t escape the poet irony – she brought with her print-outs of news articles talking about global politics and in my bag was the art-antidotes; the room sheet for Khaled Sabsabi’s MAJORITY|minority at Fairfield Museum & Gallery and the brochure for Home Country, Urban Theatre Project’s production in partnership with Blacktown Arts Centre for the Sydney Festival. Both of these shows dealt with the concepts of migration, community, belonging and building a sense of place.

Here at State of the Arts we are committed to asking the tough questions, providing a platform for the uncomfortable conversations and controversial opinions to enrich the sector’s operations more broadly. #SOTA_Provocations is our social media campaign where you get to join the conversation and shape content on pertinent issues. (Ahem, now is a good time to check you have us on Instagram and Twitter by searching @SOTA_au or Facebook @SOTAau.)

In January we posed the provocation why do you art? Following on from months of business development and getting to the heart of why SOTA_au needs to exist, we wanted to get you to start thinking about why you value arts writing and more broadly why you engage with the arts at all – be that as an artist, enthusiast, audience, maker, producer, administrator, etc. As we found, digging deep into your why can lead you into some uncomfortable vulnerable territory, but getting to the core of your passion is also where the richest responses lie.
At the heart of it, our why is about genuinely engaging in a more diverse and inclusive arts narrative that represents Australian stories.
Some of the best work by international standards is taking place beyond inner city clusters – in Australia’s growth regions – and this work isn’t getting the quality of arts journalism it deserves.
We got out the building and tested our why on those within the arts sector and, more essentially, beyond the sector. There was overwhelming support for what we are aiming to achieve here. Most importantly we were challenged by unlike-minded people who did not see value in participating in the arts. Unlike-minded people are our favourites in this process. By sharing examples of work from regional NSW and Western Sydney, we were able to alter their perceptions. That is why we champion taking art off its pedestal. As a sector, the arts has a lot of work to do if it is going to re-affirm its value to greater society. Alas, I digress – that is a separate article unto itself.
I got involved with the arts as a way to spark conversation and build understanding.  I enjoy art that interrogates society and asks us to consider alternatives. For example ‘Another Day in Paradise’ at Campbelltown Arts Centre is not just a show of Muyan Sukumarin’s paintings from death row; they are a provocation about alternative justice systems where rehabilitation is possible. Khaled Sabsabi’s ‘MAJORITY|minority’ pokes us to consider our humanity in a time of global unrest and mass migration of cultures.


We all engage with the arts for different reasons – be it social, intellectual, cultural, spiritual, etc. As I traveled home with my train buddy that evening, talking about global politics and the artworks that help us to find hope, I further reaffirmed why State of the Arts needs to exist. It isn’t just about making sure programs from under-represented communities are known about for the sake of it, but about really delving deep into the diversity of Australian stories and enabling local writers the opportunity to share their nuances and insight. That is why our content will capture local meaning with global relevance.

We welcome you to be alongside us on this journey. Sign up as a Cultural Crusader today using the tab at the top.
If you have an issue you think needs to be included as a #SOTA_provocation, we would love to hear from you. At this stage, we welcome contributors from across Western Sydney, Regional NSW and the ACT.