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2018 Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival highlights


The 2018 Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival, held from 17-20 May and in its 27th year, maintained an eclectic and diverse program.  Our Festival prides itself on catering for a broad audience and this year’s program, once again, had wide appeal for all ages and interests.  An estimated 1500 visitors attended the variety of exhibitions, performances and openings with several workshops sold out.  The Balnaves Foundation John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize, CoOpera’s ‘The Barber of Seville, The Coonawarra Vignerons Shenanigans Music Hall, Literary components and an ever-popular Family program attracted a combination of locals and visitors from interstate.

An important feature of this year’s Festival occurred in April at the launch of our much anticipated 2018 program.  Lois Hodge, a long-time supporter and committee member, was recognised as an Honorary Member of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival and was presented with a handmade silver brooch crafted by Penola artist, Dagny Strand.  Another major milestone was achieved with donations received by our ‘Friends of the Festival’ raising $5000.  This extraordinary amount collectively qualifies them as a ‘Partner of the Festival’; our highest sponsorship category.

We continue to be generously supported through sponsorship from philanthropic organisations, local government, local businesses and schools and our Friends of the Festival.  Community support remains the foundation of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival and we value this participation and sponsorship greatly.

A large audience attended the opening night and the announcement of The Balnaves Foundation John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize.  We continue our long-standing relationship with the Art Gallery of South Australia and welcomed Tony Magnusson, the Curator of European and North American Art, to judge this year’s art prizes.  The major prize of $10,000 was awarded to David Hoyt from Penshurst in Victoria for his oil on canvas painting ‘Along A River’ inspired by the poem ‘Along A River’.  Some of Tony’s comments about the winning artwork were “Evoking a powerful sense of place, this riverine landscape responds sensitively and subtly to the poet’s lines; ‘Green leaves – a patch of world along a river / The drab and silver draping every limb.”  The John Shaw Neilson Local Prize of $1000 sponsored by Lois Hodge was awarded to Jaime Prosser from Keith with her oil on paper entry ‘The Loving Tree Bidding the Stars to Come Down’ inspired by the poem ‘The Loving Tree’.  A charcoal and pastel on paper of a young woman in traditional Japanese costume called Akai (Red) by Penola artist, Dagny Strand, inspired by the poem ‘The Girl With Black Hair’ was awarded a highly commended prize.

The ‘colourful, dynamic and fun’ entry submitted by Mary Jane Boaretto Pureza from NSW was the winner of the $1000 Design Prize sponsored by the Penola and District Business and Tourism Association.  Mary Jane’s design will become the official logo of the 2019 Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival.

“But it is the people that make the difference, and this little community thrives on inclusivity – young and old, alternative and conservative, progressive and traditional.  I enjoyed myself immensely and cannot more highly recommend Penola Coonawarra as a festival to add to your calendar. You will not be disappointed. ” Cass Moriarty, Author  ‘The Promise Seed’ & ‘Parting Words’

The Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival is the largest arts event in the region and continued its reputation for organising a festival that truly has ‘something for everyone’.  The Festival promotes amazing diversity, art mediums, venue variety, and local and national content.  It has a unique ‘audience moving from event to event format’ creating a sense of anticipation and excitement.

The bumper program continued with the categories of ‘Let’s perform….’, ‘Let’s compete….’, ‘Let’s create and experience…..’, ‘Let’s taste…’, ‘Let’s look & feel…’, ‘Let’s read & write…’, & ‘Let’s be childlike…’

Various exhibitions were on display throughout the Festival alongside The Balnaves Foundation John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize exhibition at Penola High School.  Photography featured at Parker Estate with Portraits of Penola Women ‘They Came For Love’, Leconfield Through the Lens at Leconfield and Pat’s People at Patrick of Coonawarra.  Aboriginal Art by Kiri Kiri Art Gallery featured at Penley Estate, watercolours were exhibited at DiVine Café with ‘Woofs and Hoots’ and ‘Blue Feet’ at Balnaves of Coonawarra.  Festival favourite, Rossy Reeves, returned to Majella Wines with a retrospective collection of past and present artworks.  Alternative mediums of steel, recycled materials and textiles also added to the eclectic exhibitions on display.

After many years of community consultation and development, the new Penola town square was the focal point for the Walk of Honour highlighting service men and women who have served in Australian Military Forces from Penola and districts.  The RSL was fortunate enough to host the Australian Military Band along with Penola’s own Pipe Band for the opening of the town square which drew a large and supportive crowd.

Award winning ABC radio presenter, Peter Goers, performed his show – Pure Gold – to an enthusiastic crowd at the Penola Bowling Club.  Guests were regaled with stories of Peter’s 40 years in Show Biz told with his usual wit and charm and left thoroughly entertained and delighted by the man himself.

Music was back bigger than ever and is fast gaining a reputation of attracting artists that perfect and love their craft; audiences continue to be astounded by the quality and quirkiness of the live performances on offer.  Special returning performances by Kelly Menhennett, Archer and Masco Sound System where joined by a number of new acts including The Drowsy Magpies & William Alexander.  Music continued to take the Festival to the people with acts ‘popping up’ at the local aged care ‘Pinchunga’ centre delighting the residents.

The workshops offered for patrons to ‘create and experience’ were incredibly wide-ranging including tea blending, mosaic, preserving, ukuleles, painting, creative writing, drawing and printmaking.  ‘Let’s be childlike…’ expanded to capture our upper age group with street art, poetry slam, dance, karate and BMX performances.   The very talented Manal Younus was also welcomed back for another year and spent time as a writer in residence at local schools in the lead up to the Festival.

The ‘Let’s read & write’ category cemented itself into the line-up of events.  The delightful Cass Moriarty was welcomed as a guest author at the Literary Brunch discussing her books ‘The Promise Seed’ & ‘Parting Words’.  Authors James Darling and Pip Williams ran their own literary workshops, while author Victoria Purman assisted Marg Muller & Cass Moriarty with judging the Catherine Martin Literary Awards for youth.

The 2018 Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival marketing was able to expand to some paid advertising in print and social media.  In the days leading up to the festival the strategy of three simultaneous days of direct emails to the 900 mailing list subscribers received positive comments from the public.   ABC radio and our local newspapers were again great supporters of the Festival showcasing editorials and interviews of the highlighted events in the weeks leading up to the festival.

Facebook ‘likes’ increased from 927 to 1235 from the previous year.  Our organic posts with the most ‘reach‘ in the final month were the announcement of John Shaw Neilson Local Prize (2884 reach) and Commendation prize (1412), Brands Laira Tree Art (2441), Scott’s BMX (1103) and Karen Burrow (1537).   84 % of Facebook fans are women with the largest segment being 35-44 age group.  418 reside in Mount Gambier and Penola combined and 247 in Adelaide.

Instagram following increased by about 100; as of 23rd May we have 391 followers.

The Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival committee maintained its user-friendly website and online ticket sales initiatives.  2,933 people viewed our website throughout the Festival period from 23 April to 23 May 2018, and over 27% of people were returning visitors.

74.6% of the visitors were female, and the largest age group were 55-64 (26.87%) followed by the 65+ (18.98%), and 45-54 (18.55%).  67.58% of viewers were from South Australia, 24.65% from Victoria and 3.54% from New South Wales.

The online programme had 1,130 reads.  Mobile use made up 57.59% of the views, followed by desktop (27.12%) and tablet (15.29%).

The Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival remains financially sustainable to invest in the next festival scheduled for 16-19 May, 2019.

Photography kindly donated by: Darren Galwey.

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