Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

Jodie Cunningham

Jodie Cunningham is the new director of Craft ACT. Photo: Delivered.

Jodie Cunningham has always seen herself as something of a flamingo, and the handle fits-high, elegant, colorful and questioning, says the new director of Craft ACT that she is honored to lead one of Canberra’s longest running member organizations.

An artist all her life, Jodie loves color, geometry, symbolism and Canberra, where she was born and bred. She is also a collaborator and innovator at the helm of the Lime Flamingo artist collective.

Jodie is taking over from Rachel Coghlan, who made the annual Design Canberra event ACT’s fastest growing festival, and Jodie’s goal is to help artists thrive and raise the Canberra community’s awareness of art.

“That was what drew me to the role,” she said. “I have lived and breathed Canberra, I love it – I love the connection between nature and design.

Angela Bakker and Sarah Murphy's open studio

Angela Bakker and Sarah Murphy’s open studio from the 2020 Design Canberra festival. Photo: 5 foot photography.

“I aim to expand the organization and be as inclusive as possible, represent a diversity of media and to qualify the art community within professional development. In particular, the Design Canberra Festival has the capacity to attract and engage a large audience and allows artists to be a part of it. ”

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Jodie is a painter of education and commerce, but has diversified into digital art soaked in rich color. And you do not have to be a collector to see her works – anyone who has walked down Woolley St in Dickson in search of a spicy salmon has probably seen her brilliant street art, created in collaboration with the Art Not Apart Festival.

This work sprang from her first major piece of art, an intervention in Civic Square that scaled up her work and showed her that “we could engage audiences, we could dance together.”

Jody’s own practice was transformed, leading her to public art commissions like Enlighten and showing her how the world can open up to artists when given opportunities for collaboration. Craft ACT played an important role in the process.

Bev Hogg's open studio

Bev Hogg’s open studio at DESIGN Canberra 2020. Photo: 5 Foot Photography.

Jodie has also been committed to nurturing new artists. She taught visual arts for many years at CIT, often to people who used their work to treat trauma. The Lime Flamingo collective emerged from students who wanted to continue a mentoring relationship.

“It can often be quite isolated when you have completed your education. We started networking and mentoring new artists to meet once a month on the weekends, and it grew from there.

“We now have an annual exhibition and it has been absolutely wonderful – a group of amazing dedicated artists supporting each other,” Jodie said.

Their next show will be held at the M16 Gallery in March 2022.

Jodie loves pink, and the chalice nods to her commitment to a sustainable creative life of creating, teaching and networking so artists can thrive. She also has a master’s degree in art therapy and says her work with Craft ACT will be based on giving back to artists.

Rachel Coghlan had worked hard to get a City of Design listing for Canberra, now backed by the new ACT art ambition released by Minister Cheyne. This work will continue, and Jodie is eager to grow the Design Canberra Festival into a national event based on a fast-growing audience that already includes about 15 percent of interstate visitors.

“Design Canberra is about discovering our city, connecting and activating new spaces,” says Jodie.

Unfortunately, that does not include a live event this year, as Jodie and her team made the decision to cancel this year’s existing program, Transformation, and move to a smaller largely online event called Nurture.

The existing program moves to 2022, and Jodie said sponsors have been very supportive. Aware that screen fatigue is a risk, she says the intent of the Nurture program is to keep audiences engaged with artists and support them by purchasing their works.

The Nurture program will include art workshops and a focus on creating well-being and mindfulness, including sensory and repetitive activities such as sewing, knitting and clay work that have proven benefits for mental health and well-being. There will be a focus on ACT’s architectural heritage, some open study programs and the public artwork.

“We are activating the city, expanding the program and looking forward to 2022,” Jodie said.

You can find out more about this year’s Design Canberra events here.

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