With Singleton's new Arts and Cultural Centre on track for a grand opening on March 6 and Dr Faye Neilson, Singleton Council's Coordinator Arts and Culture, said what she's most looking forward to is tapping into the area's "creative buzz".
Having grown up in Dungog and now a Singleton resident, Dr Neilson has a doctorate in Fine Arts and an impressive resume as a creator, educator and appreciator of art, including as a lecturer and research supervisor at the University of Newcastle for 16 years.
She said while the world might associate Singleton with world-class wine, natural beauty and heavy industry, the burgeoning - and often surprising - arts and culture scene is becoming a drawcard in itself.
"Every town has its own fingerprints and Singleton is no exception," she said.
"Absolutely everything excites me about where we are right now - we're on the precipice of launching an incredibly vibrant creative space and, thanks to our already thriving community of arts and crafts creators, this new facility offers a new way for everyone to connect with creative arts: whether that's dropping in to view an exhibition, meeting a maker, or producing an artwork in a workshop.
"Singleton also has a notable Aboriginal and colonial history and is home to some of the most sacred indigenous sites in Australia, so if we look beyond the vines and the mines, people will discover that our area is enveloped in rich cultural heritage."
While charged with overseeing the operation of the Arts and Cultural Centre, Faye is currently hard at work on the 2022 arts and culture program which will include an exciting array of exhibitions from local and regional artists, workshops, kids' activities and artists' talks.
She said ultimately, the program was focused on connecting people to place and experience.
"I want the Arts and Cultural Centre to inspire and delight, for our programs and exhibitions to invigorate and pique the imagination, foster creativity and the ongoing appreciation for wellbeing it brings," she said.
"A lot of people are working creatively in Singleton and the greater Hunter region and I like the idea that we are making a central hub for people to connect with each other. In the very first instance, I see the Arts and Cultural Centre as being a place for the community and about our community, but also entertaining people and offering new experiences.
"It's a balance between showcasing local work and bringing in exciting exhibitions from afar, as well as presenting pieces that challenge us, excite us and start discussions. But most of all, we want to create an inclusive environment where people feel welcome and want to be part of it."
The inaugural exhibition at the Singleton Arts and Cultural Centre features new commissions by photographer Edwina Richards and Indigenous artist Debbie Becker, each with a unique connection to Singleton and the Hunter Valley.
"Edwina Richards' 'We Are Singleton: Portrait of a Town' exhibition celebrates the unique and diverse identity of contemporary Singleton, paying homage to the town's adventurous spirit and building on the past to track the community's evolution," Faye said.
"Her portraits joyfully narrate the everyday lives of people that are all connected by place.
"Meanwhile, proud Wanaruah woman Debbie Becker has studied the intersection of recorded local history and Aboriginal narratives to track the evolution of indigenous land over the past 200 years in 'Mapping Wanaruah / Wonnarua'.
"These series of painting have been undertaken in consultation with local elders and bring together stories that highlight the enduring resonance of place."
Singleton's $4.08million Arts and Cultural Centre is funded in partnership between Singleton Council and a $2.787million Create NSW grant, and includes more than 300 square metres of state-of-the-art gallery space, two artists' workshops, decking and a shared foyer connecting to the newly refurbished Visitor Information Centre.
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