Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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HomeIssue 5Art Trail, Explorer's Way: big words, so far no substance

Art Trail, Explorer's Way: big words, so far no substance

p2416 rest area OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA
“Further development of the Explorers Way as an iconic Australian tourism experience,  which would have a firm connection to the Territory’s $100m Iconic National  Indigenous Art Trail initiative, including a National Indigenous Art Gallery project in Alice Springs.”
Sounds great but what does it mean in detail?
It’s one of the five priorities set down in the “historic” joint meeting in Alice Springs of the South Australian and Northern Territory government cabinets last week for the first year of their agreement. In terms of word count it is the most detailed.
p2448 Edan Baxter 1But to find out what it is all about turned into a mission impossible. In fact a private IT entrepreneur in Alice Springs, Edan Baxter (at right), seems to have a more developed concept on the idea than either government.
We sent emails to tourism ministers Lauren Moss (NT) and Leon Bignell (SA), asking: “In what way is the Stuart Highway a tourist attraction in its own right, and how it could be developed further?
“We are especially interested in the possibility of acquiring land along the highway, say a kilometre wide on each side, so that travellers get the feeling of our much touted wide open spaces, camp and take walks in the bush, instead of driving between two fences.”
p2448 Leon BignellA spokesperson for Mr Bignell (at left) said “at this early stage of the process it is not appropriate to comment further at this time”.
He is currently presiding over the most pathetic public facilities serving his section of the Stuart Highway running through some of the world’s most fascinating country, because of its sheer size and openness: Stop for a scenic view and be confronted by human faeces and toilet paper strewn about.
p2201-Lauren-MossMs Moss (at right), for her part, had nothing to add to an election undertaking by then Opposition Leader Michael Gunner in February last year, saying Labor will “develop a significant Indigenous Arts Trail right across the Territory [working with] the people of Tennant Creek, Katherine and East Arnhem Land to ensure those communities are properly linked to this trail.
“We will work with established galleries in indigenous communities to ensure that visitors to the Territory know that some of the world’s best art is on the shelves of some of the Territory’s remote communities.
“These projects will be linked and form an Indigenous Art Trail across the Territory.
“We will have a grants program that will allow art galleries in communities to upgrade their facilities, their back of house production areas, put in dining areas and cafés and improve their displays.”
Meanwhile Mr Baxter says he is developing GPS triggered trails around NT and SA, providing information for self drive tourists.
He is calling for local businesses and operators to collaborate and “add more depth and interactive experience to their destinations”.
PHOTO at top: Typical of most rest areas on South Australia’s Stuart Highway: mostly no dunnies, no shade, toilet paper strewn about. In the distance shimmering salt lakes in the wide open spaces north of Port Augusta, the kind of scene visitors – especially from overseas – come to see.


  1. The art trail starts in Sydney, $1m to a Sydney company/year for five years.
    Imagine what the incredibly talented and diverse arts community in Alice Spruings could do with that sort of cash. But no, we need a Sydney mob to do our local art for us? What happened to local procurement?

  2. I believe that there is generally a positive mood across the related sectors / industries – and so far the government seems to be taking the right early steps with its arts trail related initiatives.
    Further, the idea of investing in art installations or enhanced points-of-interest along key tourism routes (I assume that is what Mr Bignell is alluding to) is exactly what is needed.
    Yes, I look forward to shortly launching an Alice Springs-to-Darwin app that showcases the potential of emerging app-based technologies.
    My thinking is that if we as a Territory can get this stuff right, there is huge scope to create a lasting and positive impact across a range of levels.
    Lots to be positive about IMO.

  3. In 2002 I started an art tour business (Tanamart) to remote art centres because I believe (and still do) that it’s right and proper to purchase the products of the centres direct and meet the artists who actually contribute their skills.
    I went as far as Warman in WA and all points in between, with clients from all over the world. My observations were, one gallery in WA wanted an opening fee of $200 irrespective of any sales being made.
    I charged a commercial fee at minimum cost plus commissions on sales.
    Then I found that many clients, being themselves commercial operators, used my service as an introduction to the galleries then purchased on line, making my model uneconomic.
    But I got an extraordinary satisfaction from operating that service and cutting out the opportunists – carpet baggers.
    One gallery manager also told me that he only promoted the top five or so artists. Hence the piles of works from lower pecking order potential artists accumulating in the centres.
    On an investigative trip to galleries around Melbourne I walked out of a Collins St gallery with his current price list and was chased down the street by the owner of the gallery to get his price list back.
    That smells of price padding and exploitation. Another had nothing to display in his gallery as he simply buys and exports directly to America. Another in Sydney claiming to be an expert on Utopia art could not point out Utopia on an NT map!
    For these reasons and others I would love to see the art trail concept pushed, bring the end users direct to the artists. The other concept that needs investigating urgently to avoid the exploitation described above is a permanent display market in town run and administrated by the centres themselves to sell direct to the consumers.


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