Katie Lynch is Visual Arts Manager for Barkly Regional Arts. In this interview, Katie talks about the set of events that led to her taking on this role. She describes the surprises and what she loves about her job.
How did you come into this role? What were you doing before you came to Tennant Creek?
Covid Hits London
I was in London before Covid. I came back to Australia around Easter in 2020, which was a bit of a shock to the system because I was immediately living in lockdown.I was working for an art fair in London and studying, I also have a small advisory business where I consult emerging artists on a private basis. But that was always a bit of a side hustle, not a full time job. Covid put an end to the fairs and the income from that. I was still working for myself, which was great because it meant I could just focus on those artists. While I enjoyed it, I am very team focused so I’m finding it really nice to be back in a team here at Barkly Arts.
Move To Tennant Creek
My partner is a teacher and he got a job at Tennant Creek High School. My academic background is Indigenous art and art business, but I was still very nervous about the idea of coming to a place like Tennant Creek. It has a reputation, which I now know portrays it in an overly negative way. I was here to visit my partner and I walked into the art centre at a very opportune moment when two consultants were here looking at the art centre. They were considering what could be done to get things going again, after that period of covid-induced dormancy. I gave them my CV and ended up interviewing with the Deputy Chair and getting the job. First as an Art Studio Manager, and then as Visual Arts Manager.
What has taken you by surprise?
How Art Is Made
So many things have taken me by surprise. Honestly, one of the biggest things is the way that art is made up here. Art is obviously something that's very precious and it's precious wherever you are. But when you're in the desert, it can be hard to keep things clean. There's dogs everywhere. Things are dusty. In the wet season, it's muddy. Kids are playing where art is being made. Canvases really become part of that environment. They get dusty or a dog runs over them or a kid scribbles on the back.
Little Things Become Part of A Painting
I went from handling art with white gloves to seeing artworks stacked outside on dusty verandahs. I remember first going to Epenarra and seeing all these paintings stacked up against the wall, outside the Epenarra Art Centre ready to be loaded into the Troopy. I just couldn't believe that paintings were ever in such a dusty space, because up until now, I was always working in a white-glove art world. So I think that really surprised me, but equally, it is such an important part of the painting's life. Of course a painting is something precious, but it's also something that's evolving pretty much until it ends up on the gallery wall. So those little things can become part of the painting. They might be the reason that an artist changes a painting slightly. So they really are part of its story.
Acceptance of Life In the Desert
You can't keep things clean in the desert. That's just something that we've had to accept. So while we are, of course, as careful as we possibly can be with paintings, we do know that sometimes while they're being worked on in home environments where people have to look after their kids at the same time, there might be dogs around and there will be dust around. Artwork is still very much at the beginning of its life and is still being made, even once it is finished, because it is being carted around the desert until we get it back to the Tennant Creek studio.
What do you love?
I love the artists. It's such a joy to work with such a huge group of interesting people. They are so willing to share their knowledge of culture and their knowledge of Country and language. They are people who are really eager to work hard and create something amazing and beautiful for our broader collective and the audiences of the Artists of the Barkly. I discover something interesting about an artist every single day. They make it so much fun to be at work.