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2022 Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival highlights

A premiere Opera performance in a Cabaret setting, a Family pARTy in the heart of Penola and a night of grass roots music headed up the jam-packed program of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival, with celebration at its core.  

In 2022 the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival proudly celebrated it’s 30th year over four days from May 12 to 15. In 2022. This year it also coincided with the 150th anniversary of the birth in Penola of John Shaw Neilson – one of Australia’s most renowned poets of the late 1880’s and early 1900’s. 

Kicking off the Festival celebrations at the Penola High School on Thursday night was the announcement of the 2022 John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art prize winner – this year won by Dagny Strand. 

The  Limestone Coast Local Art Prize of $1000 sponsored by renowned local Lois Hodge was won by Stella Scanlon. 

The Design Prize of $1000 was awarded to Natania Hollinsworth, whose work will be incorporated into all marketing collateral for the 2023 Festival, sponsored by Hansen Design and Print. Judge for the awards was Rhana Devenport, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia. 

Following the JSN announcement, a Co Opera premiere performance of the one act comic opera ‘Gianni Schicchi’ by Giacomo Puccini made a return to its traditional Thursday night timeslot in Rymill Hall. Gianni Schicchi was composed in 1917-18 and is a libretto based on an incident mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy. This project was made possible by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, which supports the arts in regional and remote Australia.

Over the weekend more than forty venues across Penola and Coonawarra were abuzz with more than fifty events including exhibitions, workshops, competitions, comedy, live music and performances. Highlights included the ‘Maruwa’ workshops and exhibition at Redman Wines, the next installment of ‘Portraits of Penola women’ exhibition at Brands Laira and a fashion illustration workshop at Koonara.

Shenanigans at the Coonawarra Hall was a hit once again, hosting bands including Archer, Kelly Menhennett, The Cart Wheels and Friends. 

The popular Literary Brunch returned on Sunday to Coonawarra’s Ottelia, with a line up of film creatives including producer Nick Batzias together with director and screenwriter Justin Kurzel to explore their award-winning Australian film Nitram (Martin spelt backwards). The controversial film tells the story of notorious convicted murderer Martin Bryant in the lead up to the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996. Nick and Justin were accompanied by their friend, author Jock Serong – a previous Literary Brunch guest and Festival supporter – who also spoke about his latest book ‘The Burning Island’. The event was a sell-out, and continues to build on its strong reputation. 

To celebrate thirty years of the Festival, a Family ‘pARTy’ took place on Sunday on the Mary MacKillop Memorial School’s Oval, along with community activities ‘Down the Lane’ in Petticoat Lane and the surrounding lawns in the historical heart of Penola. Families joined arty activities, face painting and fundraising stalls for local schools supported by a grant from the Stand Like Stone Foundation. A free afternoon of entertainment featured kids show ‘Bettong and Buddies”, magicians, circus acts, music and a GIANT birthday cake.

A small but dedicated group of seasoned or aspiring buskers signed up for the 2022 Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival Busking and Open Mic Competition held at the ROAK on Sunday afternoon. First held in 2009, this event will be built on for future Festivals. 

The 2022 PCAF program encapsulated the very essence of the Festival, anchoring community at its heart whilst celebrating thirty years since its inception. It offered the creative time and space to reflect on what the Festival means to our community, and where it will go in the future. It was indeed a Festival to be proud of. 

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