About art centres

Remote Community ATSI Art Centres

‘Art centres’ is shorthand for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) art and craft centres that are owned by their members. Art centres are little jewels scattered around remote Australia. Each one is uniquely different. They are hives of creativity, social hubs, art schools, cultural strongholds, livelihood generators and dynamic social enterprises all in one.

Indigenous/Aboriginal remote community art centres are local artists’ cooperatives dotted around the continent, and can be found in the remotest places. There are more than 90 throughout Australia and they can be found in the Top End, far West, Central Australian desert, Far North Queensland and the south. Their legal structure is as non-profit Associations or Corporations. In international development speak they are ‘Community Based Organisations’ (CBOs) and are genuinely grass roots (rather than top down). Some have as few as 10 members and others have 300+ members. Each art centre supports its members to create arts and crafts and then markets the products within Australia and internationally.  Each art centre supports traditional and contemporary art forms that are appropriate for the members to express their creativity and culture and this can include painting on canvas, bark and paper, wooden sculpture and natural fibre weavings.

One of the (ironically positive) outcomes of COVID-19 is that many art centres have dramatically improved their online presence, making information about them and their products more accessible to the world.

Whilst Flying Fox Fabrics focuses on fabrics/textiles, we want you to understand more about Indigenous art centres and how to buy Indigenous Australian art ethically.  Art centres can be visited online. See these peak body sites to learn more about and access art centres around Australia. Each site has links to members.

ANKA – Top End Art Centres

Desart Inc – Central Australian Art Centres

IACA – Far North Queensland Art Centres

Ananguku Arts – South Australia

There are also art centres in other parts of Australia that are not represented by peak bodies. Let us know if any have been left out.

Victoria: Baluk Arts and Kaiela Arts.

Fabric printing in art centres

Around 15 art centres are involved in production of designs on fabric and/or fabric products. A number have onsite workshops where they screen and/or lino print on fabrics and some also outsource production to offsite non-Indigenous fabric hand printers. Some artists license their designs for reproduction on fabric and fabric products. This has been a very exciting development in the last few years with some major collaborations with fashion design and homewares companies.

The founder of Flying Fox Fabrics is recognised as an expert in remote community art centres having worked with more than 70 art centres since 1986 as an employee, researcher, consultant, curator and more. She has been an employee of three: Warlukurlangu Artists, Injalak Arts and Bula’bula Arts and has lived for more than 12 years ‘out bush’. She has had the pleasure of working with very many that have been involved in fabric.

For more information see Flick’s personal/consulting website and details of her CV here.