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Interview | Regional Arts Service Network Manager for Creative Alliance Queensland and Arts Leader, Katie Edmiston

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Interview | Regional Arts Service Network Manager for Creative Alliance Queensland and Arts Leader, Katie Edmiston

Next up on our my Brisbane local artists segment is the amazing and incredibly passionate Kate Edmiston, who I was very fortunate to have had as my of my university professors whilst I was studying drama. Katie Edmiston is a passionate arts leader that has been working with, for and on behalf of regional communities in Queensland for over a decade. Katie has worked as an independent creative producer and practitioner and within a number of arts and cultural organisations, creative businesses, festivals and events, universities, peak bodies, local councils and state government.

Katie has a significant diversity of skills and experience acquired through: design and delivery of creative projects such as visual arts exhibitions, public art, theatre performances and music events; venue and festival management; public space activation and design; management of statewide funding initiatives; development of arts incubation spaces and programs; community engagement and facilitation; delivery of professional development training and conferences; research and evaluation; strategic planning and policy development; and working with local communities to support development, renewal and recovery within a range of contexts. Here's what Katie had to say...

VIRAG: How did you become involved in the Australian arts sector?

KATIE: I often credit the arts with saving my life. As a child growing up in some pretty difficult circumstances the arts were my escape. I loved to pretend / make believe that I was someone else somewhere else. I would enlist my younger siblings into playing various roles, I would make, borrow or steal (thats another story) costume pieces and makeup and put on shows to whoever would watch the latest theatre piece, musical number of dance routine.

So of course, at one of the hardest points of my life it was the arts sector (in particular the Brisbane Youth Arts Sector late 90's - early 2000's) that welcomed me as a young person despite bringing with me a number of issues and challenges, supported me to have a voice and tell my story, believed in me when I didn't believe in myself and gave me a hope, a community, a purpose and career that I never knew was possible.

I now have almost 20 years of creative practice working within the arts and cultural sector, community organisations, state and local government, peak bodies, universities and businesses doing everything from running a youth arts centre to management of a statewide disaster recovery project to producing blues music gigs on a train.

I am passionate about the role arts can play in building the engagement, connection, capacity and revitalisation of local communities, particularly regional communities where much of my work has taken place. I currently lead the Creative Arts Alliance, the Regional Arts Services organisation for South East Queensland North (Gympie, Noosa, Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay, Somerset, Redlands)

Interview | Regional Arts Service Network Manager for Creative Alliance Queensland and Arts Leader, Katie Edmiston

VIRAG: How has the coronavirus impacted your own creative practice and your work with regional communities?

KATIE: COVID has had a massive impact on our work, our creatives and our communities. All of our programs have had to be cancelled or postponed. As the only full-time employee of my org and one of the few people in our sector waged atm I have felt a deep responsibility to reimagine, redesign, reorganise our projects so that we can continue to pay the majority of the artists we had intended to engage during this time. So I have been stupidly busy - pushing myself to ensure that our artists can keep creating and communities can keep connecting during this time. We have come up with some really interesting models including livestreaming, online workshops, phone / zoom meetings, and creative activities via post.

VIRAG: Is there any advice that you could give to those that are grieving the cancellation of a production or a project?

KATIE: There is so much of us in the work - it is us - intrinsically part of who we are. It can be heartbreaking to lose a project/organisation you have put so much into. What I have learnt is projects, roles, organisations might come and go - but your practice, your career, your networks remain and what you have achieved is remembered. You will pick up / build on from where you left off... At the moment, particularly there are so many people going through a similar process - reach out to friends and colleagues - we are all going through this together.

Interview | Regional Arts Service Network Manager for Creative Alliance Queensland and Arts Leader, Katie Edmiston

VIRAG: Lastly, have you been able to stay creative and keep generating and refining ideas while you've been in self-isolation? Or have you found it difficult to stay creative during these overwhelming times?

KATIE: For better or worse, my life experience has taught me to be great in a crisis. Weirdly I think I do my best thinking when the world is crumbling and a solution needs to be found - I feel like I have been in overdrive with ideas the past few months.

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