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Stephen Dobson marvels at the way technology has enhanced the global art world, while appreciating the fact that the New England area itself plays host to some amazing art and artists. Get Off Your Arts and visit Uralla this month for an innovative arts festival …

What an amazing world we live in! Why, just in the last month alone, I have been uploaded, Facebooked, multitasked, tweeted,  interfaced, uplinked, browsered, phished, spammed, wiki-ed, in-boxed, outsourced, data-based, downloaded, You-tubed and zone-filed. No wonder I am always tired. It was the ancient Chinese who coined the curse “may you live in interesting times”; somehow I think that they had us in mind.

However all this digital and cerebral activity does have an upside. For artists and art lovers alike, there has never been a better time in the history of mankind to access the myriad hued, artistic landscape.

Some amazing websites have materialised, which give intimate and immersive art experiences – some of which go way beyond the ability of a book or television to illustrate the collections of some of the greatest art museums in the world.

The most impressive of these is the Google Art Project (I will include the web addresses at the end of this article). The Google Art Project uses the latest Google view technology in high definition, to allow you to virtually visit 17 of the world’s greatest museums.

You can zoom into the works of art to see in giga-pixel, high definition the very brush strokes of the artist. I have visited a number of the museums represented in person over the years and am still astonished at the detail which I have been able to see via this site, which were not even evident in the flesh – such is the quality of the scans.

Another great site is the Louvre Gallery site. This sumptuous site will take you on virtual tours of the gallery, providing insight into the works and artists represented. Also of note is the site of Armidale’s own world class gallery NERAM. The site, while a bit light on virtual tours and photos of works, still provides a good overview of the collections and what is happening in the gallery.

Get Off Your Arts

Uralla again plays host to this innovative arts festival – an amalgam of arts programs exhibitions and performances. The diverse nature of the festival should appeal to art lovers, as well as the great un-washed others of the New England.

The program features local and international artists. A feature for me is the return of the amazing theatre of Sound and Fury, a vaudevillian mishmash of comedy and wit, which has left many audiences screaming with laughter. They were the recipients of the people’s choice award at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and have delighted both critics and punters the world over.

I have included a web address for Sound and Fury, where you can find videos of their performances, at the end of this article. Another festival event not to be missed is the Lantern Parade. There is something ethereally beautiful about these lanterns, as they wind their way through the streets to Alma Park then parade around, transforming Alma Park into a temporal fairy dell, enchanted and magical.

Your children will be transfixed as the lanterns weave their spell around the beauty of this wonderful park. This is a feel good affair which is a celebration of all that is good in people – highly recommended.

Also, I have to give our humble vineyard, Eastview Estate a mention, as we are very proud to be hosting a live Rockabilly and Blues concert on the afternoon of April 3, starting at 1.30pm.

This should be an absolute hoot. There will be a sausage sizzle and a bar for the un-washed, and for those who want a more refined experience (you know who I mean, the snooty ones), you can book a ticket and luncheon package (groups of 4 or more) which will get you a gourmet lunch, a reserved table inside and a perfect place to cast superior sneers at the un-washed hordes in the gallery.

If you are coming, unless you book a table inside, please bring a picnic blanket. Drinks will be available to purchase; this is not a BYO venue.

Also featured at the concert will be the Focus Club. This will be a special gallery and bar set up to feature the many artists that Armidale New England FOCUS has featured over the years. FOCUS is a sponsor of the Get Off Your Arts festival and have been at the forefront of the New England arts community since their first edition, with almost every edition since featuring a local artist.

The exhibition they are setting up will feature as many of those artists’ work as possible and will provide an opportunity to meet some of these talented artists in person.

The scope of the Get Off Your Arts festival is testament to the hard work of the many active members of the local arts scene and also to the unfailing faith of sponsors and local Council.

In the vibrant arts community, to say that festivals such as this are important in the context of our community is an understatement.

Festivals of this sort should be supported for the sake of our humanity, to remind us that life is not just about existence, that there is a lot of beauty and joy to be had in this world, that good things happen every day, and that life here in the New England is a gift to be savoured.

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