Sharon Adamson, the great-granddaughter of the late Tiger Palpatja, is an emerging painter who works from Tjala Arts Centre. Juggling the dual demands of artistic commitment and recent motherhood, the artist has felt the career struggles of working from a remote community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. Yet Adamson’s paintings are now heading to Sydney as part of the first exhibition in APY Art Centre Collective’s new gallery space.
The APY Art Centre Collective is an organisation that supports 10 Indigenous owned and governed enterprises who work from the APY Lands in northern South Australia.
“The APY Art Centre Collective was established by the elders to support regional collaborations and artists,” says APY Collective manager Skye O’Meara. “These are the only vehicles of employment in the community. They are places where culture is celebrated in community and elders instruct younger generations.”
After five years of planning, the organisation is now opening the first Anangu-owned gallery in Sydney.
While the APY Collective currently encompasses over 500 practicing artists, the creation of an east-coast gallery ensures greater opportunities for these artists.
As O’Meara points out, “Of that 500, there are less than 100 that have gallery representation, so the gallery is really trying to create what the ARI does for non-Indigenous artists; it’s a launching platform, a space for special projects and a space for early-career artists to have their first show.”
As an Indigenous owned and operated enterprise, the APY Gallery will provide agency for Indigenous artists, while also working towards future sustainability. “The space allows us to overcome the challenges of living in a remote and isolated environment,” explains O’Meara. “What they elders want for the young people is to shore up the sustainability of their art centres.”
The gallery’s first exhibition, Malatja Tjutangku Ara Irititja Kunpungku Kanyini – Old Knowledge, Young Blood, is a survey show of young and emerging artists across the APY lands.
Spanning a range of mediums, the show speaks of the stories that artists have learned from grandparents and senior women and men.
Overall, O’Meara hopes the gallery space will prompt better understanding and appreciation of Indigenous arts centres and their vital functions. “Art centres are the ethical model in our industry,” she says. “The Indigenous art industry has been fraught with opportunism and individuals that are taking advantage, and we hope to be able to give art-lovers a clear understanding of the different models in the industry so they can support art centres and support Aboriginal artists with the knowledge that the artists are being paid and that the money is being returned to community.”