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Digital platform helping to create arty youth connections  

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A passionate assemblage of volunteers is creating new ways for young people to connect with the Newcastle Art Gallery’s (NAG) works of art.  

The NAG’s Youth Advisory Group has spent the past year working on its Youth to Collection (Y2C) Project, which will culminate this weekend with the official launch of its interactive digital platform. 

Designed to increase adolescent engagement with the most significant public collection of art in regional Australia, the initiative kicked off with the creation and publication of six zines.

Each featured interviews with emerging local creatives – including Gillian Adamson, Brigitte Beyer, Jaimie Carpenter, Jasmine Miikika Craciun, Ruby Hart, Jemima Hodge, Wolfe Jessie, Tegan Kinder, David Lobb, Holly Macdonald, Grace McMahon, Mikayla Nangle, Liz O’Brien, James Rhodes, Wednesday Sutherland and Emma Wilks – alongside selected works from the Newcastle Art Gallery collection that correspond to the venue’s areas of ceramics, sculpture, prints and drawings, photography, painting and new media. 

The Youth Advisory Group is now looking to expand that engagement online with the development of an interactive digital platform and video series that will allow the community to continue to connect with the collection while the NAG undergoes its $40 million expansion. 

Member Molly McNeil said she – along with Aidan Gageler, Belle Beasley, Benji Crocker, Kar Mun Phoon and Nicole Klaer – had enjoyed collaborating with the gallery and the local emerging artists on the project.

“From the outset, we really hoped to engage with them – and we ended up doing that by bringing them into conversation with the huge collection at Newcastle Art Gallery,” she explained.

“By building an array of projects around that goal, we’ve created a platform where the Newcastle’s emerging artists can be considered alongside the esteemed and reputable works and practices found in Newcastle Art Gallery’s collection.  

“We’re so excited for the launch this weekend.

“Being able to see our teamwork come to life and to share that with others is going to be such a great experience.”

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said it was fantastic to see the volunteers sharing their passion for the NAG with other young people. 

“By doubling the size of the gallery, significantly increasing the exhibition space and delivering a suite of modern facilities, the $40 million expansion will deliver an upgraded gallery of international standing that will offer a valuable cultural tourism opportunity for Newcastle and the Hunter,” she stated.

“While the doors of Newcastle Art Gallery are closed for the construction, we are committed to ensuring the community can engage with our collection in as many ways as possible, which is why this innovative project by our Youth Advisory Group is such a fantastic idea. 

“It’s also testament to the passion and commitment shown by the dedicated volunteers, who have continued to look outside the box to find ways to stay involved with our gallery throughout this time.”

The Youth Advisory Group program was designed to engage with people aged 18 to 30 to deliver youth-led programming while also providing early career learning opportunities.  

“The six members are generally made up of tertiary students, practicing artists, writers or performers who are engaged and participating in Newcastle’s vibrant cultural scene,” Newcastle Art Gallery director Lauretta Morton said.

“They put forward a range of programs and activities they would like to see occur at the gallery in their year of tenure, which they then deliver with assistance from NAG staff. 

“With much of our programming in the past few years being disrupted by COVID-19, the current Youth Advisory Group came up with an innovative project that simultaneously showcases the breadth of the gallery’s collection and supports local emerging arts practitioners. 

“The Y2C Project sees the creation of ‘by-youth, for-youth’ content and has been a wonderful means to promote conversation between Newcastle’s emerging artists and Newcastle Art Gallery’s collection.”

The Y2C launch party will take place at The Creator Incubator on Saturday 25 June from 6pm to 10pm, featuring a selection of Newcastle’s finest DJs, video installations featuring Y2C emerging artists, projections developed by David Lobb and Mikayla Nangle, artists stalls, a pop-up bar and food truck. 

The event is free, but bookings are required.

Visit www.nag.org.au to find out more about the gallery’s expansion, Youth Advisory Group and the launch party. 

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