SWELL Sculpture Festival releases key dates and events, including festival firsts

In rapturous news for art lovers across Queensland, not only is SWELL Sculpture festival proceeding in 2020, but it is also going to present some exciting new events.

Like most of the City’s major events, SWELL Sculpture Festival was in no way guaranteed to be going ahead in 2020. SWELL Sculpture Festival Artist Director and Curator, Natasha Edwards, says the executive team had to make changes in the planning, and happily, this year’s event is shaping up to be better than ever.

“We are thrilled to be connecting people, art and place, presenting a COVID safe SWELL Sculpture Festival for visitors to enjoy,” she says.

“It has been a rollercoaster ride this year and the whole world has felt the stress of the pandemic. We’ve come to realise in times like these getting outdoors, creating – and enjoying – art is more important than ever.”

Creatives on the Gold Coast and around the country, are currently preparing their artworks for Queensland’s biggest outdoor art show when SWELL’s outdoor sculpture exhibition hits Currumbin Beach between 11 and 20 September.

Victorian artist Jasmine Mansbridge, who is known for a huge colourful wall art mural on Johnston Street, Collingwood and large scale installations at the National Gallery of Victoria, says the coronavirus crisis has emphasised how grateful she is to have a creative outlet at the moment – finishing off a 150kg, 2mx2m installation for SWELL Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast.

The artist was planning on heading to QLD for the big event, instead she will be in Victoria under lockdown.

“It’s been a crazy, disruptive year – I’ve been doing most of my painting at night when the kids are in bed,” says Ms Mansbridge who unfortunately won’t be travelling with the huge installation, which was funded by a Victorian arts grant.

Some people lose inspiration in hard times, for me doing art keeps me sane – it’s all become more powerful now that we can’t go anywhere. At least my art can still travel.

SWELL supports professional, mid-career and emerging artists. Regular exhibitors include professional artist and Gold Coast local Clayton Blake, who is known for adapting everyday objects into impressive architectural applications and also frequently contributes work at Burning Man in the US and Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney. Charlie Thrivers is a professional artist who resides in Wamberal, NSW – with 30 years’ experience as a sculptor and has previously exhibited at SWELL, Sculptures by the Sea and Toyamura International Sculpture Biennale in Japan. Meanwhile over 30 percent of this year’s artists are emerging, as they bravely explore their sculpture journey.

SWELL Sculpture Festival Executive Director, Dee Steinfort, says: “We have a wonderful selection of artists coming from Queensland and across the country to showcase their work.”

We’re also unique in that we’re an outdoor exhibition, so there’s lots of space for people to move around freely and enjoy the artworks.

The thought-provoking spectacle of 50+ outdoor artworks will be complemented by a rich and exciting program of live events and masterclasses delivered in a space dedicated to small-scale sculptures – the SWELL Smalls Gallery and pop up exhibitions throughout the Gold Coast, including the brand new westerlySWELL in Mudgeeraba. As an added bonus, 2020 also sees the return of the hugely popular SWELL Kids Education program.

Extending the footprint of the event by connecting the points of the sculptural compass at northern, southern and western areas of the Gold Coast, this year the event will showcase two popup exhibitions – northerlySWELL with renowned Indigenous living legend Luther Cora’s new sculpture depicting the mullet season and a time of abundance, at Helensvale Cultural Precinct & Library; and westerlySWELL , which will see sculptures by local and national artists popping up in Mudgeeraba Village Green. Both installations take place from 1 to 20 September.

The SWELL Smalls Gallery will host a rich and exciting program of live events, including visual arts and literacy masterclasses, live music, spoken word experiences and creative culinary adventures.

Of course, changes needed to be made to this year’s event in order to make it COVID-safe. Such measures include:

  • Physical distancing: Placement of sculptures to encourage an easy pedestrian flow through the 1km stretch of beach, allowing visitors to view the sculptures at leisure while maintaining physical distance.
  • Digital capabilities: New online artist panels and interviews to be streamed
  • Removal of tactile installations: Instead of an interactive sculpture park onsite this year the SWELL Kids Elements program will offer free online sculptural workshops for children as well as sculpture hunt adventures and more.

Artists at this year’s festival are in the running to share $27,500 in prize money, with the major winner to take home $15,000 in cash.

This year’s award categories include the SWELL Sculpture Award, Emerging Artist Award, Environmental Awareness Award, Artist Peer Award (voted for by artists), and the People’s Choice, and SWELL Smalls Gallery People’s Choice awards (all voted for by exhibition visitors).

More than $45,000 in artist subsidies will also be distributed to help creatives deliver their sculptures.

For more information on artists, getting there and what’s on, visit swellsculpture.com.au.

IMAGE: Karl Meyer’s ‘Life Support’ (C) Fotomedia

SWELL Sculpture Festival 2020 will be delivered in a COVID-19 Safe manner. The safety of the community is of utmost importance to organisers. SWELL Sculpture Festival will operate adhering the SWELL COVID-19 Safe Plan and will adjust accordingly as guidelines and recommendations are updated from health authorities. Visitors to SWELL are asked to adhere to COVID Safe public health measures such as physical distancing of 1.5m from non-household members, sustain good hand hygiene with sanitising stations throughout the exhibition and stay home is unwell. Look and flow through the exhibition, keep left and do not block walkways, to list a few. 


SWELL also has enhanced digital capabilities to deliver online elements to connect with audiences at home if they are unable to attend the event. 

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