Interview: Kate Moskwa, CEO SA Living Artists Festival

For the last 22 years SA Living Artists Festival (SALA) has promoted and inspired artists, brought art into communities, and built up the profile of our state as an arts and festival hub. Stepping up as CEO this year is the fabulous Kate Moskwa, previously the festival’s Program Manager.

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For the last 22 years SA Living Artists Festival (SALA) has promoted and inspired artists, brought art into communities, and built up the profile of our state as an arts and festival hub. Stepping up as CEO this year is the fabulous Kate Moskwa, previously the festival’s Program Manager.  Kate kindly took some time to sit down for a chat with Glam about the treasures 2019 will bring.

“SALA is many things to many different people, so it really is a blank canvas”, she says. “Sala doesn’t just celebrate art and artists, but it is a great excuse for bringing communities together, especially in the colder months when people get a little more isolated and stay home catching up on Game of Thrones.

All of the festival favourites will be happening again, although some in a slightly different form, or new venue.

“Our Finnisage closing-night party this year will be at Lion Arts Centre, as we are now in that precinct with a lot of other arts organizations. We’re excited to be collaborating with the new Lion Arts Factory Team.”

A great feature of SALA is the bi-lingual tours, which will be expanded this year. Says Moskwa “We’ve run Mandarin tours for the last several years, this year we’re developing it further with the Indian community, doing tours in Hindi, Punjabi and Tamil.”

The very popular PechaKucha Night, which has been run for the past three years, will be happening again this year, at Nexus Arts. PechaKucha (the name comes from the Japanese for “chit-chat”) is a presentation form where speakers present 20 slides, for 20 seconds each. Both established and emerging artists will be participating, and this is always a hugely popular event.

This year the featured artist is Louise Hasleton who will be exhibiting at Samstag Gallery.  Haselton creates contemporary sculptural pieces. In this exhibit she will be exploring animism, an Eastern philosophy in which inanimate objects have their own souls and life-force. She will launch the SALA monograph in line with her exhibition.

One of the great joys of SALA is the variety of non-traditional venues that get involved, alongside purpose-built galleries. Moskwa speaks passionately about these community venues.

“Every year we have cemeteries involved, which is really interesting considering it’s a festival of living artists. It’s a really great juxtaposition. We always have Centennial Park who partner with SALA. Last year we had a wonderful exhibition by primary students who exhibited in the cemetery next to their school, with a wonderful show about the cycle of life. The most common venues are bars and cafés, retail spaces, community centres and libraries. Also, whole streets get involved like Unley, Goodwood, King William & Melbourne, through their retail traders’ association.”

Moskwa feels that one of the great strengths of SALA is not just in introducing artists to audiences and vice-versa, but in helping to build communities. The Open Studios program is very much part of this.

“Open studios are really popular: this is where people give up their sheds and their homes. It’s always interesting to see how people create a little art space within their domestic, private space. Someone will pull up their garage Rolla-door and you’ll see pictures propped up between a wall of tools or a lawn-mower. It’s quite an intimate and interesting experience. The open studio weekend is the 10th and 11th this year. It’s nice to just pick a suburb or a region, and just go check out all the open studios in that area. It’s a great way of, not just seeing art and hearing about artists, but really getting to know your local community.”

Children and young people are well catered for. Major sponsor Credit Union SA will cover the registration fee for any school (ELC, primary or secondary), that wishes to participate. This is clearly an element of the festival that Moskwa feels strongly about

“We have more schools participating each year. There are no restrictions on how or where you participate or exhibit. Some schools build great relationships with local businesses such as cafes. Young people are used to just seeing their work on the classroom wall or the fridge at home. To see it in a public place is an incredibly empowering experience for them.”

 Also aimed at younger artists is the SALA Parlour, a pop-up, drop-in art studio on the lawns outside the SA Museum. Artists are available in this space to teach children new techniques and give them opportunities to practice them.

“We are extending that this year to do some outreach to schools that might be economically or geographically disadvantaged. We’re looking to incorporate art into young people’s lives in any way that we can.”

Spreading across myriad regions of South Australia, offering free or low-cost events, and with accessible venues and tours, SALA truly aspires to be open to everyone.

SALA runs through the month of August, and the full program will be available soon.

Check out the SALA website for more details. https://www.salafestival.com/

Interview by Tracey Korsten

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