South Australian Living Artists Festival: Covering The State In Visual Arts

Published in Arts  
Chris Orchard, 'Thrown' Chris Orchard, 'Thrown'
The South Australian Living Artists Festival (SALA) is a state-wide festival of visual art.

It aims to acknowledge and support visual artists across all of South Australia and will this year celebrate 20 years. Here, SALA Director Penny Griggs chats with us about this year's event, and the festival itself.

First of all, what is the South Australian Living Artists Festival?
SALA Festival is the biggest community-based visual arts festival in Australia. Every August thousands of South Australian artists exhibit their works in hundreds of venues throughout metropolitan and regional South Australia – everywhere from pubs to cafes, bookshops, cinemas, even tattoo shops get involved and become pop-up art galleries for the month! It's also open-access, meaning artists from all skills and backgrounds can get involved, so we have exhibitions of painting, sculpture, jewellery, textiles, photography and much more from both established and emerging artists.

The festival was established in 1998 to celebrate the visual arts world. Why should that world be celebrated?
It’s important to acknowledge that South Australia is more than a fly-in-fly-out cultural state – we are a state of makers, creative thinkers and innovators. Risk taking and innovation must be supported at all levels. The arts matter and it’s incredibly important to promote and be proud of our local visual artists and art scene.

The festival has a 'policy of inclusiveness'. Tell us about that.
SALA is a community united through art: making art, experiencing art and enjoying art. And everyone belongs – it doesn’t matter how old you are, what language you speak, if you have a disability, your level of education, where you have come from or what you believe. Anyone can be part of and experience the SALA Festival!

Why is inclusiveness important in SALA?
Because all types of people participate in art for all sorts of different reasons. There are professional artists who have devoted their working lives to their art practice. There are hobbyists who enjoy creating art for leisure and there are people who feel the need to make art to keep them healthy. We have participants who are at kindergarten, participants who live in nursing homes and people living in custody. It is important to SALA that art in all its forms is acknowledged and celebrated.

It's SALA's 20th birthday this year! Why do you think it has lasted as long as it has?
South Australians know how to do festivals! From the very beginning SALA has been embraced by the broader community. We have had incredible support from local councils, small businesses, media and the arts industry who understand the value of visual arts and celebrating local artists. Every year the festival evolves and develops so it continues to be relevant to artists and audiences.

SALA Penny Griggs
Penny Griggs

What do you think is essential for SALA going forward so that it continues to grow?
Engaged artists and audiences. We want everyone to get involved with SALA – and there are so many free and fun ways to do so.

Are there themes or ideals that SALA follows every year?
SALA’s vision is to create and sustain an environment in which South Australian visual artists are supported, valued and celebrated.

What can art lovers expect to see at SALA in 2017?
This year we have more than 650 exhibitions and events featuring over 6,000 participating artists. There are so many wonderful exhibitions for all types of tastes. I recommend you check out the insider guides on our website to assist with your exhibition selection, and from 1 August download the new SALA Festival app for an interactive map of exhibitions near you, with the ability to see what's open, what's close to where you are and search for art and exhibitions of interest to you. If you need a bit more guidance check out some of our city and regional tours on offer this year. And get in early to book tickets to the SALA Gala Dada Dance on Saturday 26 August at the Old Regent – a Dada inspired evening embracing the experimental hosted by The Propaganda Club to celebrate the 20th SALA Festival. It’s also worth arranging to go on a few day trips to check out the work in regional South Australia. Explore a new region and discover new artists!

Why did you decide to be part of this world?
I have been fortunate to work in the arts industry my whole career – over 25 years now. I grew up in an arts-centric family so I guess it was just a natural decision.

What do you love the most about being the Director of the South Australian Living Artists Festival?
I love being part of the incredibly diverse, interesting arts community of South Australia. Connecting local artists with audiences is particularly rewarding.

Why should people attend this event?
To check out what local artists are exploring and reflecting of our world. Plus you might find a new work that grabs your affection and finds its way to a special place in your home!

The South Australian Living Artists Festival takes place from 1-31 August.

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