Coober Pedy Art Project

Kayangkuna Baker painting in a workshop at Coober Pedy
Kayangkuna Baker painting in a workshop at Coober Pedy

The Opal capital of Australia has a vibrant Aboriginal art industry which is gathering momentum. The Coober Pedy Art Project, run by Ananguku Arts, is bringing together over 50 painters producing works in a broad range of styles and creating a colourful addition to the local art market.

Artist Lilly Ulah with workshop facilitator Amandine Caire
Artist Lilly Ulah with workshop facilitator Amandine Caire
Oz Minerals provided transport for the artists to attend the workshops
Oz Minerals provided transport for the artists to attend the workshops
Coober Pedy Art Project
Wayne Eager with Coober Pedy artists at a workshop in 2013
Wayne Eager with Coober Pedy artists at a workshop in 2013

Ananguku Arts has been delivering professional development workshops for Aboriginal artists in the Coober Pedy region since 2010. Initially, workshops were delivered sporadically as part of the Statewide Professional Development Program but in 2012 regular workshops were funded as part of a Feasibility Study into the establishment of an Art Centre in Coober Pedy, funded by the Office Of The Arts (OFTA) and FaHCSIA.

The Coober Pedy Art Project aims to provide skills development workshops and professional development opportunities to Aboriginal artists living in Coober Pedy and those who may be visiting from other communities.

The project is managed by Ananguku Arts and a highly experienced workshop facilitator, Wayne Eager from Alice Springs, was contracted to deliver the workshops over the initial six month period from October 2012. Wayne has worked closely with Aboriginal artists in Central Australia for over 20 years and in that time has delivered successful workshop programs in most of the APY Lands art centres. A local Aboriginal support worker, Darlene Lennon, was employed on all the workshops to assist the facilitator and to act as a community liaison contact to ensure that transport arrangements could be made for all those wishing to attend.

During the later stages of the workshop program a local volunteer, Amandine Caire, joined the team. Amandine, a water colour artist from France, took over the role of workshop facilitator. Everyone involved in the project is hopeful that an art centre will eventually be established in Coober Pedy. In the mean time the Coober Pedy Art Project is continuing to deliver professional development opportunities to artists in partnership with local organisations including Umoona Aged Care, Red Cross and the Coober Pedy District Council.

Narelle Pompey with an unfinished work at the Coober Pedy Art Project workshop
Narelle Pompey with an unfinished work at the Coober Pedy Art Project workshop

Since the workshops began more than 400 paintings have been produced. During the May workshop an Art Sale was held at Bungala Skills Centre which attracted a good crowd of locals, visiting workers and tourists. Almost everyone who came in left with a canvas rolled up under their arm and the few paintings that remained went on sale at a street stall during NAIDOC Week. Work from CPAP artists also went on sale at the Prominent Hill miners camp in NAIDOC Week 2013 and was a cmplete sell out.

Lilly Ulah at the opening of her first solo exhibition at Raft Artspace Aice Springs. Photo: Susie Ciavatta
Lilly Ulah at the opening of her first solo exhibition at Raft Artspace Aice Springs. Photo: Susie Ciavatta

Another success story from the workshops is a painter from Umoona Aged Care, Lilly Ulah, who picked up a brush for the first time at the initial KuArts workshop in 2010. Lilly’s work immediately gained the interest of Karen Zadra at Marshall Arts in Adelaide who marketed some of Lilly’s early works through her gallery. Dallas Gold from Raft Artspace in Alice Springs and Matt Ward from Outstation Gallery in Darwin have both exhibited her work.

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