Sleeping giant starting to wake up: Geelong’s art scene begins to flourish

Inside the little town (dramatised for nonsensical purposes) of Geelong, there lies many artists. Many  painters, photographers, writers, musicians, illustrators, people who draw on both canvasses and serviettes: you get the picture.

Also, inside this little town (which some people have dared to call ‘Sleepy Hollow’) called Geelong lives a guy named Ben Neoh, whom Mari recently interviewed here (forgive the shame-less promotion!)

Photograph courtesy of Ian Priddle

Why is this significant?Is it significant? And what’s the meaning of life, by the way?

I’ll let you ponder such mysteries as I continue on telling you about Ben Neoh.

Image kindly provided by Ian Priddle

Let’s call Ben the Bridge. Not the London bridge and not the Westgate Bridge, there’s no need to distract ourselves and get all specific.

The point is Ben, one day – and I don’t know the exact moment – decided to become a Bridge.

A Bridge between the artists of Geelong and the Geelong public.

The story of Ben and his bridging is still continuing, even now as we speak as the ‘Light Up Geelong’ exhibition he’s been organising gets closer and closer. Don’t worry, Stories of Geelong will keep you up to date with this.

In our ‘modern’ day world (“Wouldn’t each generation at each point in history refer to their own as ‘modern?’ Discuss.) the concept of “bridging” may be more accessible than imagined.

Do you know someone CREATIVE?

This was the beginning of Ben’s bridge, a Facebook ‘event’ calling for creatives of Geelong to gather together, come out of hiding and be part of something huge.

“To make this an effective project I need everyone to suggest this event to as many people as possible,” said this widely circulated Facebook invitation.

What happened next was a wave of Facebook love, as person after person added the event and “invited” their friends. Suddenly, what went from a brilliant idea started coming to fruition, as hundreds of people joined the group and began commenting. Lots of “liking”, linking to blogs and the usual online media methods of communication.

Now the challenge: to transfer the virtual world of a creative community to an actual tangible event, away from the distance of Facebook and computers, and away from the threat of a good idea remaining just being that – a good idea.

So the invitation was put out there: Artists, let’s get together for this meeting about an upcoming exhibition, network, throw some ideas on the table (or pick them up again) and start to ‘nut’ out this wonderful love child called ‘Light Up Geelong’  under the banner ofPlease Welcome.

What’s remarkable is not so much that this invitation was circulated around, sweeping from arty people to arty people’s friends. What’s remarkable is that such an event actually happened, transcending the “only on the Internet” “Facebook Friends Only” pile and became a reality.

People who RSVPed actually turned up. Last Thursday night, despite the rain, people showed up to the venue of Polly, Put the Kettle On, passing the gorgeous Frank & Dolly’s homemade wares shop on the way.

I was one of the first people to turn up. As I walked down the old warehouse-looking stairs down to Polly Put the Kettle On, the only ‘underground’ tea party venue of its kind in Geelong, I was struck with awkwardness. Do you ever feel like that?

Ben Neoh was there and Stephanie, from SUB were there. I’d talked with them both “online” and now I was meeting them.

Anyone who’s ever attended a ‘professional’ function of any kind can testify that “networking” can be a bit scary.  And I was a bit scared. Suddenly, I felt like hiding.

But I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. That confession out of the way, I can now continue my report on the evening…

Soon the room was full of people: PEOPLE!! People on Facebook who actually CAME!! People who surpassed the easy boundaries of simply “liking” something and actually physically coming along  to a meeting, umbrellas in tow.

As the coffee machine started hissing and doing its thang, and delicate and obscure teas being selected; as trumpet jazz music softly serenaded and people mingled, it struck me: this had happened.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” C.S. Lewis.

Artists were gathered together, both to potentially collaborate and join in the mammoth and shining vision of ‘Light Up Geelong’, and also just to meet up with kindred spirits, chat with other people doing the same thing.

People who believed in the creative potential of Geelong, known to some as “G-Town.”

To me, the fact that this meeting actually happened was the feat.

There’s something special that happens when people unite for a good cause, even if the cause is drawing creative gifts together to encourage one another, collaborate and just spend time together.

After allowing time for networking over exotic cups of tea, Ben Neoh began to speak.

“Thanks for coming, I really appreciate it” he started.

Maybe he was taken aback by how many people actually attended but he admitted he was a bit nervous.

The crowd responded in the way a crowd knows best: much clapping, encouragement and smiling faces as he looked around the room.

“Now, I’m even more nervous,” he laughed.

He explained his vision for artists collaborating and the upcoming Light Up Geelong exhibition spanning various art mediums and styles: “I saw a need to unite all the divided art forms into one”

In a nutshell, the Light Up Geelong exhibition next month is going to be unprecedented.

“I don’t want to give it all away but it’s awesome,” Ben told, sharing something of his game plan for how the exhibition would play out.

Yet, gurus tells us it’s about not the destination, it’s the journey. And on this journey, the Light Up Geelong exhibition involves more than just passionate arty individuals, it’s also a partnership between three visionary groups in Geelong: Please Welcome, Courthouse Arts and Made in Geelong.

There was a time, a few years ago, when China was called “the Sleeping Giant” in terms of economic power. I remember learning about in history class back when I was a high school spring chicken. The words were drummed into me and it’s obvious now that was something of a prophesy as China has truly ‘woken’ up – and there’s much more to come – in terms of their international economic presence.

Who are we to digress and be so bold as to compare the Geelong arts scene with the economic gumption of China? Genuinely, it’s a far cry to throw them in the same sentence and even a professional rambler like me is having a hard time justifying that.

So I might just stop there and quit with the hyperbole.

Yet, I will dare to say this: Geelong’s arts scene is starting to emerge. Silent artists are become audible and ideas are sprouting away. Let’s water them. Thank you Ben Neoh. Thank you arty people. Thank you people who are passionate about injecting life and creativity into this beautiful city.

Geelong’s not a Giant but it’s starting to wake up a bit.

Syndicated from Stories of Geelong

4 thoughts on “Sleeping giant starting to wake up: Geelong’s art scene begins to flourish

  1. So true!! I was there too and felt so awkward I wanted to run right out of there! Polly’s is such a welcoming & warm kinda place though so it was a great spot to hold such a gathering.
    I met a couple of people there that night who i had only previously interacted with over Facebook or email, and it was really strange to find it so hard to think of something to say??? Thankfully shyness disappeared. However as I started chatting to people, there was a slight paranoia in the back of my mind that some of the green seaweed from Polly’s miso soup were lodged between my front teeth…
    Onwards and upwards though, viva Light Up Geelong!

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for the feedback!
      Yes I know what you mean. It’s like this intense case of shyness that soon dissipated! Polly’s miso soup, have to try that next time. Viva Light Up Geelong, indeed!

  2. I was there too. So much creative energy! And it was good to see such enthusiasm for the arts too – very infectious. Face-to-face networking is so much more powerful than Facebook networking (although Facebook helps to get the conversations started). Looking forward to the next Light Up Geelong update from Ben.

  3. I agree with that: face to face networking is so much powerful than online, although online helps to get the party started! It was exciting, wasn’t it? You looked around the room and saw just passionate, creative people all with the same mission, their faces reading: “Where do I sign up!?” Thanks for your comment!

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