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Tasmania: so much more than MONA

Richard Watts

A thriving arts ecology ensures a wide range of events and activities for the discerning cultural tourist.
Tasmania: so much more than MONA

Wallis Bird will be playing at the 2017 Cygnet Folk Festival.

Despite a small population Tasmania punches well above its weight artistically, as evidenced by the international reputation of artists such as playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer and novelist Richard Flanagan.

Tasmania has also witnessed significant growth in the number of cultural tourists visiting the state in recent years. Many such visitors flock to David Walsh’s remarkable Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), but it’s far from being the only attraction Tasmania has to offer.

The island’s dramatic landscape – showcased in television programs including The Kettering Incident and Rosehaven – is complemented by a rich array of private and public galleries, influential arts organisations, festivals and other activities all year round.

Visitors seeking to gauge the health of Tasmania’s arts ecology are best served by the Tasmanian Arts Guide, a curated selection of the island’s best arts activities and events.

The site – maintained by Arts Tasmania – is easily searchable and regularly updated, with highlights shared across social media platforms. It also hosts profiles of significant Tasmanian artists and features a range of articles about current and upcoming events.

Visit the Tasmanian Arts Guide

This one-stop shop for cultural tourism simplifies travel and entertainment planning for the arts-interested and adds spice to every visitor’s itinerary. Here are just some of the highlights to choose from:

Festivals: There’s a rich range of festivals in Tasmania to lure visitors south at every time of year. Rather than activating a single city, Ten Days on the Island presents arts activities across the state; an ideal chance to experience the diversity of Tasmania’s landscape and culture. The 2017 festival features works by local companies such as Terrapin Puppet Theatre and Tasdance, as well as a rich range of international productions.

Music lovers are catered for too, with the likes of Cygnet Folk Festival in January, Clarence Jazz Festival in February, and Festival of Voices in June-July providing the perfect soundtrack by which to fine-tune your trip.

For the more experimentally inclined, Junction Arts Festival showcases an array of interactive, immersive live art experiences in Launceston each September; while September’s biennial Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival celebrates literary culture and the written word in Hobart.

nature is a language you can't read, Lucy Bleach, Contemporary Art Tasmania​

Galleries and Exhibitions: If MONA has whetted your appetite for the visual arts, there are dozens more galleries across the state to explore. In Launceston, the Queen Victoria Art Gallery is renowned for its colonial art collection, while the city’s largest commercial art gallery, 1842, specialises in decorative arts and design, especially art nouveau, art deco and modernist decorative arts.

Hobart is home to the likes of Contemporary Art Tasmania, promoting new and experimental arts practices; Spacebar Gallery, showcasing independent designers; and Art Mob, specialising in works by Tasmanian Aboriginal artists. There’s also the popular Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, preserving and celebrating the cultural history of Tasmania, and a wide range of galleries at Salamanca Place.

Naturally there are also numerous galleries outside the major cities, including the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery (at the edge of the Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair National Park), Saddler’s Court Gallery in the Georgian-rich village of Richmond, and King Island Arts & Cultural Centre, which showcases local artists and artisans and also hosts a celebrated and significant artist-in-residency program.

Like the Tasmanian Arts Guide on Facebook or follow @tasartsguide on Instagram

Guides & Trails: One of the best ways to get to know a new location is to meander its streets or byways, and Tasmania is no exception. Enjoy the combination of exercise, fresh air and artworks by walking the Great Western Tiers Sculpture Trail, featuring 15 artworks and beginning on the banks of the Meander River in historic Deloraine. In the state’s south, take in breathtaking views of the Tasman Peninsula as well as public artworks by Tasmanian artist Alex Miles on the Three Capes Track, a four-day walk which starts at Port Arthur. Less physically challenging but just as enjoyable is the Battery Point Sculpture Trail in one of Hobart’s oldest and most charming suburbs.

Battery Point Sculpture Trail. Photographer: Jonathan Wherrett.​

Theatre and Dance: A unique theatre ecology exists in Tasmania, with constant cross-fertilisation between professional and amateur companies. Time your visit to Tasmania to coincide with a production by independent company Loud Mouth (whose upcoming production of SHIT by acclaimed playwright Patricia Cornelius is sure to be a highlight of the theatrical year), the Tasmanian Theatre Company (presenting Jane Cafarella’s surrogacy drama ­e-baby in March) or Strahan’s The Round Earth Company (their convict comedy The Ship That Never Was is performed daily from September to May). Alternatively, take in a  touring show by The Australian Ballet or Moscow Ballet La Classique at Hobart’s historic Theatre Royal, the oldest continually operating theatre in Australia.  

Visit tasmanianartsguide.com.au to start planning your Tasmanian arts adventure.

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's national performing arts editor and Deputy Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the boards of La Mama Theatre and the journal Going Down Swinging; he is also a member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, and a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts

 

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