firstthirty

2016 marks Firstdraft’s 30th anniversary! This online project celebrates the long history of Firstdraft and the countless people that have created such a vibrant and exciting artist run initiative. This page features images and findings from the 30 year archive together with short interviews from artists and directors throughout Firstdraft’s history. Enjoy!

 


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Michael Moran on Firstdraft Gallery circa 2000s

AS PAST DIRECTOR

The firstdraft website used to have a list of past directors, their names assigned to a reverse chronology annotating each’s years of involvement. I remember from my time on the board of fD that there were always gaps in that document – either names or years that could not be assigned easily – and lest error be created or offence given, those unassigned names and years sat below the concrete list as an unallocated acknowledgment. To avoid this messy documentation (it is surprisingly difficult to contact some ex-Ds to verify the dates of their involvement) the website’s list of folks involved over the past thirty years has been streamlined into the standard non-hierarchical form of alphabetical order; albeit with preference given to first names over surnames. Given this, I can certainly vouch for the fact that Marley Dawson and Michaela Gleave have names in a similar alphabetical realm to mine (and are incidentally both great people) but I can’t remember my exact years of involvement. I’m going to guess that it was somewhere between 2004 and 2007. I was assigned a board position by then current directors Holly Williams, Dave Lawrey and Adam Weiderman, to work alongside Elizabeth Reidy and Kathryn Gray (who are absolutely both great people). Katy Plummer was also on board with Liz, Kathy and me but found herself with other vital human creating tasks to focus on during our tenure. As was Nick Folland, who had shifted from Adelaide but sadly decided to shift back during his tenure. Liz, Kathy and I, in turn appointed the aforementioned Michaela Gleave, Daniel Green, Alicia Ritson (who didn’t last long, but left in pursuit of curatorial pursuits that have found her at The New Museum) and Sean Rafferty. Everyone listed so far is such a good person and if there is just one great privilege (which there’s not, there’s heaps) from being involved with a space like fD, it surely has to be working so closely and passionately with people such as the aforementioned.
A brief list of some of the most immediately memorable moments from my years as a director of fD:
– running the place on the smell of an oily rag and still being able to offer month long shows to artists for under a hundred bucks,
– the establishment of the Emerging Curators Program,
– a full, three gallery Chalmers St show by Nigel Milsom,
– listening to the West Tigers qualify for the 2005 NRL Grand Final by defeating the Brisbane Broncos in Brisbane, while installing a curated project of my own – ‘To Think We Almost Made It’, which featured the work of amazing artists and lifelong friends Todd McMillan, Vicki Papageorgopolous, Christopher Hanrahan and Nigel,
– celebrating fD’s 21st (Kathy basically ran these celebrations on her own. They were considered, well documented, incorporated a series of stellar curated exhibitions, seminars, the best studio resident you could imagine (Iakovos Amperidis – NO SHOW!) and a great fundraising party at Paddington Town Hall),
– winning the jelly wrestling competition at the party noted in the bullet point above.

 


Grace Archibald on Firstdraft Gallery 2010-11

AS PAST DIRECTOR

Can you describe the atmosphere at a Firstdraft opening/event at the time that you were a director?

Drunk.

What’s your most memorable moment as a Firstdraft director?

Renovating the Chalmers St gallery. I was blessed to work alongside a group of creative, funny, intelligent and good looking directors.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

A myriad of reasons. Predominantly by providing a professional yet accessible space for artists to experiment and showcase their practice, Firstdraft has been feeding and cultivating the Sydney and National art scene for years.

Was there a predominance of practice exhibited while you were a director?

I think a diverse practice was exhibited, which is the beauty of Firstdraft.

Favourite show from your time?

I couldn’t say – They were all so unique and had different points of interest and quality.

 


 

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Katy B Plummer, “Disgrace and Audubon; Down, Down to Destruction”, 2005, multimedia installation at Firstdraft in 2005
 

Katy B Plummer on Firstdraft Gallery 2004-05

I was a director at Firstdraft for 2004/2005, until my kid was born… (or maybe it was just 2005? My brain was most definitely not my own for a while there). I served with Liz Reidy, Dave Lawrey, Holly Williams, Kathy Gray, Helena Leslie, Harley Ives, Michael Moran… I hope that’s right; again, I was pretty spacey. I left early, because it all got to be too much with a baby, and was replaced by Michaela Gleave.

It was a great experience for me, to be a director. I had just come back to Australia after several years overseas, so I felt quite disconnected from the Sydney art scene. It was a great to be thrown into the middle of things, and I’ve made lifelong friends of the people I met through Firstdraft, both directors and artists. I think it has always been an incredibly important place for artists.

One time somebody, Hannah Furmage I think, exhibited a piece that maybe was/maybe wasn’t heroin, and the police came to the opening and there was a whole kerfuffle. I can’t remember exactly how it turned out, but excitement was running pretty high. Another time, very early on in my tenure, we held a meeting in a very crowded pub, and Holly Williams managed to clear a whole seating area of strangers by telling them that we needed their seats so we could hold our Young Christians meeting. They all just stood up and got the hell out of there. I was dead impressed.

I had my first solo show at Firstdraft, and it was such a great experience. I had come from New York, where space and opportunities were much more scarce, unless your work was very commercial. It was such an amazing feeling to be somewhere I could just have an idea, put in an application, and quite soon after just have a show.

I’m so happy to be part of Firstdraft’s history. Long may it reign.

 


 

 

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Camille Serisier, “Tiger” 2008, Digital Print, 27 x 21 cm
 
 

 Camille Serisier on Firstdraft Gallery 2007-08

 

AS PAST DIRECTOR

What years were you a director of Firstdraft? Who else was a director during this time?

I was on the board from 2007 to 2008 alongside Michaela Gleave, Sean Rafferty, Daniel Green, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Penelope Benton, Will French, Cy Norman, Di Smith and Kelly Doley. Everyone brought something amazing to the team. They are all very impressive people.

Can you describe the atmosphere at a Firstdraft opening/event at the time that you were a director?

Openings were exciting and fun. It was amazing to check out new work. For some people it was their first show. For more established artists it was an opportunity to be bold and experiment. Regardless people had usually spent months working up to the opening. It was special to be a part of that.

What’s your most memorable moment as a Firstdraft director?

To be honest I didn’t always find Firstdraft easy. Like so many Directors before/after me (and people in the arts generally I suppose) I struggled juggling full time work, my own practice, family obligations, general life and a lot of Firstdraft hours per week. So there were a lot of lessons learnt during that time, which were quite memorable. There were also great times out dancing into the wee hours after a City of Sydney Project for the Laneways Festival, an amazing ARI exchange in Melbourne with Bus Projects, and the people – I met some amazing people who are still great friends today.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

Firstdraft offers emerging and established practitioners freedom to explore, experiment and share. Its validity is ensured by the passionate artists who participate in its diverse and constantly adapting programs as exhibiting artists and/or Co-Directors. After watching so many other spaces come and go, it’s amazing to have a space in Australia that has run for so long. Through its engagement with other ARI’s, diverse representation of artists, and general evolution it provides a window into the evolution of our sector.

Was there a predominance of practice exhibited while you were a director?

We tried pretty hard to keep it balanced and to show a variety of work by artists at different stages in their development. I think that ensured diversity.

 


 

 

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Holly Williams, “Round and Round” 2003, kinetic sculpture.
 

Holly Williams on Firstdraft Gallery 2004-05

 

AS PAST DIRECTOR

What years were you a director of Firstdraft? Who else was a director during this time?

I was a director in 2004-2005 and stayed on a little longer into 2006. I was with Emma White, Jess Olivieri, Sara Oscar, Harley Ives, David Lawrey, Adam Weiderman, Elizabeth Reidy, Kathryn Gray, Michael Moran and for a short time Marley Dawson and Nicholas Folland. During my stint I think it was one of the first times a director had gone on maternity leave with Katy B Plummer heading off in my first year. For much of my time there I was the only director with a car so drew the short straw getting the the drinks for the opening and picking up the invites.

Can you describe the atmosphere at a Firstdraft opening/event at the time that you were a director?

Crowded and excellent and loud. I also so clearly remember trying to make the toilet out the back seem less like it was in ‘Trainspotting’ (we painted it pink at one point) and the issue of the bottle bins at the end of the night. Some of those nights were so long.

What’s your most memorable moment as a Firstdraft director?

There were many but one that was very distinct was in the first months of my first year when the previous board had been unsuccessful with getting funding for the year ahead and so we had no money to operate with and I was walking down King St with Emma White. Times were tough and she just said “No-one can quit. No-one can quit, if someone quits it will all be over” and we had this realisation that we had to stick together to keep it going – we didn’t want to be the board that killed Firstdraft.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

Increasingly I despair about what Sydney may become if artists can’t afford to live here and all the old buildings have been turned into apartments and all the usual suspects for work – art schools, tafe etc have gone by the wayside, I can’t really imagine what the country’s biggest city will be like without artists living, working or showing it it. So I guess this is why I think firstdraft is important, if for nothing else than as a conscience and a reminder that artists in a city are important. Also because lots of great people have, and continue to be involved and building something together is the best thing. There’s a saying about life in a Buddhist monastery that its’ like freshly dug potatoes being thrown into a sack and rolling around until all the dirt and rough edges come off. I sort of think being part of the Firstdraft board is a bit the same. It asks so much of you in how to work with and for others and at its best, in the service of art, it rubs some of the self-centredness away.

Was there a predominance of practice exhibited while you were a director?

Being in the space on Chalmers Street was great for installation-based practice particularly. Some of my favourite shows were ones what worked with the street frontage, like Emma White’s excellent show Rise and Fall where she had a kind of dysfunctional shop operating. We also launched the Emerging Curator’s Program which was one of the first dedicated programs in Australia, it’s been great to see that continue to go from strength to strength.

 

AS ARTIST

What did it mean for you to exhibit at Firstdraft in 2003?

I came in contact with some really excellent people in the first group show I was in called ‘Me and My Coma’. It was before I was a director and I was in my first year of my Masters at SCA. Some of the people in that show became some of my closest friends.

Did exhibiting at Firstdraft impact on your practice, if so how?

David Lawrey and I put together this large group show in 2004 which I think set me up for the career that I now have as a curator so my time at Firstdraft was a forerunner to a different practice that I didn’t anticipate at the time. The show was called ‘Hold the pickle, lettuce takes on new meaning’ and we invited 20+ artists to respond to a huge list of newspaper headlines that had the word ‘meaning’ in them. It is still one of my favourite shows for the diversity of artists, the process and the show itself I remember as being really good.

 

“I despair about what Sydney may become if artists can’t afford to live here… I guess this is why I think Firstdraft is important, if for nothing else than as a conscience and a reminder that artists in a city are important.”

 


 

 

 

 

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Will French’s “Double Up Fingers Crossed”, 2012
 

 

Will French on Firstdraft Gallery 2008-2010

AS PAST DIRECTOR

What years were you a director of Firstdraft? Who else was a director during this time?

I became a director in 2008. I was asked to apply by my friend Agatha Gothe Snape. At the time I was a little down on Firstdraft as it seemed to be really clique and I was dubious. I realized soon after I was wrong and the people I was working with have become like family. Connie Anthes, Kate Scardifield, Michaela Gleave, Cy Norman, Penny Benton, Grace Archibal, Sean Rafferty, Jessica Tyrrell and a few others in the transition. I finished up a little over two years later in 2010 and left the country promptly as was the style of ex-directors at the time.

Can you describe the atmosphere at a Firstdraft opening/event at the time that you were a director?

I remember the openings really fondly. We were in the Chalmers St space when I took the role on. The gallery was so established and so strong at the time that we merely had to keep putting shows on and the people kept coming. It was a really great time. I remember the ambitiousness of the shows and the investment in installs and projects in general. We took a lot on and it was always busy. For the first six months I was a director I worked on the night we had meetings and I never could come. So I was like a ghost after hours, taking out the bins, doing my bit and as the only director with a car I would pick up all the beer and Ice for the openings. I looked forward to the openings a lot, if only to see everyone i’d missed at the meetings and catch up. I remember the footpath being packed all the time at openings, sitting on the stoop and waiting till it died down and then we’d flick the lights and get everyone else to eventually leave.

What’s your most memorable moment as a Firstdraft director?

When I was a director there was a lot of change. We had a fire order handed to the building which we had to comply with or face closure or possibly moving. We chose to stay and we renovated the Chalmers St sight. It took a huge effort and a hell of a lot of team work to take it from running a gallery to rebuilding a space. My favourite memory is the day we came in to knock out the walls and I handed out sledge hammers and crow bars and gave everyone a few safety tips. By the end of the day there was nothing but rubble on the floor. It seems we had a lot of ‘venting’ to do and it all came out in one hit, literally. Its always a little love/hate with Firstdraft however never more hate than love.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

Firstdraft is an incredibly responsive barometer of the art scene. It moves far more swiftly to the waves of practice than institutions or commercial galleries. It provides a platform in which to declare the concerns of young artists without interests in thematic, curatorial or otherwise and without dictation from commercial viability. Without these pressures or preoccupations it reflects a true sense of Sydney and Australia at large artistically. It provides much more than just this, but these are the aspects I find specifically exciting about Firstdraft.

Was there a predominance of practice exhibited while you were a director?

No there was no particular predominance in practice. It was truly diverse. I always wanted to do an Abject show in response to all the wildly inappropriate, naive and gross applications we got, but I was forever overruled. I think there was a lot of strength in the shows we showed and as a result we took on projects for City of Sydney and moved our studios off site to the new Depot location to maintain momentum. It was exciting times in the arts, perhaps, in a way, more hopeful times.

 

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Will French “Check Out My Stitches”, 2008 (left) and “Reverse Park”, 2003 (right) at Firstdraft, Chalmers Street 


AS ARTIST

What did it mean for you to exhibit at Firstdraft?

I first exhibited at Firstdraft in 2002. It was a big deal to be curated into a show there. I was a really emerging artist (just 21) and was incredibly proud to be asked to be in the show. I have been in numerous shows, solo and group since then. I still feel a very strong sense of pride and ownership of the gallery. It has been really good to me and I have been good to it, moreover it still feels relevant and significant to me and, although I am a lot older now I don’t feel we have outgrown one another just yet.

Did exhibiting at Firstdraft impact on your practice, if so how?

Absolutely, Firstdraft let me get away with a lot. I have driven a car (or been in a car driven) through a gallery wall when we were showing in 2003 at the Chalmers St space. I have filled that gallery with flame, smoke and incredible noise when I hot-rodded a sewing machine with a motorcycle engine and performed it at Firstdraft in 2008. I grew up in public showing there over the last ten or more years, some good and some not so good show.

I also had my first major solo show in the two newly renovated spaces of Chalmers St after a long time overseas which felt significant and felt like the right place to show that work. Each show has been a steep learning curve and has also been massively rewarding. In the beginning it was exciting just to not hear “no” to the ideas I wanted to show, which was very empowering and reassuring. Recently it has just been good to have a platform that will show work that interests me and I feel involved with, so it has had a big influence and no doubt will for years to come.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

As an Artist Firstdraft is important in offering exposure to Art made by artists at similar levels of development while you are progressing as a young artist. It is also incredibly influential in offering a platform to show work as a young artist, growing your practice in an environment which encourages you to hone and refine your work. It provides community, opportunity and criticality. It helps make artists better at what they do and it has no bias agenda in the way that takes place.

Sometimes being an artist is impossible to justify to yourself and community that surrounds you, particularly when Australia seems to have little interest in the arts or culture in general. If all you can see are reasons to retreat from the arts, when all the detractors seem much louder than the incentives it can be very heartwarming and reassuring to find a life raft like Firstdraft to help you feel at home and possibly nurture or give you a motivation to persevere. For that alone, as a sense of place, Firstdraft is fundamental for artists.

 


 

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 Tess Horwitz’s show “Lattice” in the ‘first’ Firstdraft space
 

Tess Horwitz on Firstdraft Gallery 1985-87

 

AS PAST DIRECTOR

What years were you a director of Firstdraft? Who else was a director during this time?

I was a co-founder and co-director of Firstdraft with Narelle Jubelin, Paul Saint and Roger Crawford from 1985-1987.

Can you describe the atmosphere at a Firstdraft opening/event at the time that you were a director?

Firstdraft was a very popular artist-run space from its inception in a warehouse building in Abercrombie St Chippendale. It had the warm support of commercial galleries in Sydney – I remember Stephen Mori coming over to help us finish the space. There was collaborative communality with other artist-run spaces. The Sydney Morning Herald (which was across Broadway from us) gave the artists exhibiting in the space regular reviews and that kept the audience large at openings and during shows.

What’s your most memorable moment as a Firstdraft director?

We did a two-week period of different installations and performances every day. That was really exciting and brought enthusiastic audiences.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

Firstdraft in its first inception fought hard for contracts for artists, and for seeding and running money from the funding agencies. We were the first artist-run space to receive funding for some running costs and that was an achievement. The structure of changing committees of directors has enabled the space to achieve an amazing longevity. It has been an effective training ground for curators, directors, writers, artists all these intervening years.

Was there a predominance of practice exhibited while you were a director?

During its first incarnation Firstdraft Gallery exhibited an incredible diversity of works for the days before new media, from ephemeral sculptures and installations, performances, to paintings, photographs, etc. There was also a strong effort to bring work from artist-run spaces in other regions to Sydney and send Sydney works and artists into those surrounding regions. This created a fertile breeding ground for refreshing subject matters and aesthetics.

AS ARTIST

What did it mean for you to exhibit at Firstdraft in 1987?

As one of the founding directors of Firstdraft who had helped build the space, manage it, work with a myriad of artists, it was a delight to exhibit there in our last year as directors. I had a studio on the same floor so it was luxuriously accessible to work with the actual space of the gallery, which is my preferred working style. My show called “Lattice” was a memory work about my childhood and especially about my grandmother. I made paintings that worked like a continuous film strip around the gallery walls, with the images moving in and out of my family home’s rooms. It was a strong and emotional piece to make, and to my surprise, it sold out on opening night.

Did exhibiting at Firstdraft impact on your practice, if so how?

Rather than that one show affecting my practice, it was managing Firstdraft that inevitably affected all the practices of the directors. In hanging all those shows you learnt so much about installation and what works for an audience.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

Firstdraft in all its manifestations and different locations (Chippendale, Annandale, Surry Hills, and now Woolloomooloo) has been a flexible, ever-changing example of the importance of an artist-run space. It’s been important to Sydney artists historically in achieving funding for artist-run spaces. Its structure has shown that you can maintain a space professionally and yet allow constant change in management. The history of its exhibitors and its exhibitions is like a grass roots history of art in Sydney.

 


 

 

Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran on exhibiting in 2013

 

What did it mean for you to exhibit at Firstdraft in 2013?

My first exhibition was at Firstdraft. I presented small paintings! It was the first time I exhibited outside university and things really started rolling from there.

Did exhibiting at Firstdraft impact on your practice, if so how?

Firstdraft provided a context to experiment and take risks. I made a mess with my install but this allowed me to reflect and refine.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

Firstdraft is an essential platform, nurturing emerging artists in their formative stages. It’s defined by openness and community spirit. These are essential for creative communities.

 


 

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Philipa Veitch, photo taken during the exhibition Remaining Light, 1996 

 

Philipa Veitch on Firstdraft Gallery 1996-97

What years were you a director of Firstdraft? Who else was a director during this time?

I was one of the directors during 1996-1997, along with Anne Fraser, Alex Gawronski, Sarah Goffman, Jacqueline Millner, Caitlin Newton-Broad, Elvis Richardson, and Gianni Wise. Some of us were there for the full two years and some of us were there for the first or second year.

Can you describe the atmosphere at a Firstdraft opening/event at the time that you were a director?

At that point in time FD was in its third location in Chalmers St Surry Hills. It was a large semi-industrial space across from Prince Alfred Park near Central Station and we used to get a lot of people coming through for the openings, they were always pretty big nights and a lot of fun.

What’s your most memorable moment as a Firstdraft director?

I remember many really good shows – quite ambitious in terms of their content, scale and technical achievement. Two shows that stand out in my mind were the 10th year anniversary exhibition, which included many of the former directors and exhibitors, and a fundraiser we organized called 36’24’36’. It was back in the day before digital photography! Artists submitted an undeveloped roll of film, along with a brief description of each of the shots and people bid on them – they didn’t get to see the actual work until they took it to get processed and printed.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

Firstdraft must be one of the longest running ARIs in Australia. So many artists have begun their exhibiting careers there, and the emphasis has always been on providing a space for experimentation and work with a critical edge. The hard work of so many people has kept Firstdraft alive and kicking all these years and it continues to perform an incredibly valuable role within the Sydney visual arts community.

Was there a predominance of practice exhibited while you were a director?

There was a huge diversity in the work being produced during that time as there is now, but we mostly focused on exhibiting artists working in site-specific installation.

 


 

 

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Paul Williams Confetti Solution (helmet detail), 2011. Oil, acrylic and enamel on canvas. Photo: Kim Walker

 

Paul Williams on Firstdraft Gallery 2012-13

AS PAST DIRECTOR

2012-13 David Capra, Amelia Wallin, Justin Balmain, Amy Griffiths, Tesha Malott, Dara Gill, Alex Clapham, Vaughan O’Connor, JD Reforma, Wilna Flourie, Andrew Moran

The atmosphere would always change and shift, no two openings were the same. Generally it was always warm. A sense of community. Ex-directors and past exhibitors returning to say hello. As directors we were very aware of making sure people felt welcome and encouraging introductions for artists to the viewing public. It was always surprising to find just how wide our audience could become depending on the kind of event that was on. You couldn’t narrow the audience down. It has wide appeal.

Memorable moment – Dara Gill sun worshipping in Gerroa. OR! Hanging the Auction fundraisers for 2012/13 and having the time to reflect, consider and be blown away by the generosity of the artistic community that supports FD.

Firstdraft is important because exhibiting in free space in Sydney is important! Young creative people need a place to go, need to feel part of something outside of their studios. Firstdraft is an important step for emerging artists to put themselves out there and take risks, rise to challenges that they set themselves and exhibit their work in a professional space. It connects people and communities. As a director I learned a lot about what is actually possible through being around a group of creatives with individual skills and vision. I learned about respecting what it takes to exist and provide a space that is functional and professional. I gained an insight into the depth of hard work that goes on behind the scenes to provide a space for creative outcomes and to witness how the continuing history of Firstdraft is respected by larger institutions.

AS ARTIST

I exhibited at Firstdraft May 2011. It was an exciting time for me – I was toying with a range of concerns from painting, drawing, sculpture and installation. I had just completed my Masters and was also the resident artist at FD. I had the time in the FD studio to reflect on what I might do in what became a direct reaction/response to two years of focused work. The people I met on the board at the time were encouraging. They challenged me and gave me that extra confidence or push to take a step in a direction that I may not have felt was possible or plausible.

The direct engagement with the FD community and space had a sense of momentum about it and provided me with that next step as I completed my masters.

As an artist FD was important for me to connect with a broader community and my experience there as a resident and exhibiting artist influenced my decision to apply for a directorship.

 


 

LYNDA DRAPER

Vaughan O’Connor on Firstdraft Gallery 2013-14

 

AS PAST DIRECTOR

I was a Director 2013-2014. My cohort was JD Reforma, Andrew Moran & Wilna Fourie.
I was bracketed by 2012-2013 Directors Justin Balmain, Amy Griffiths, Amelia Wallin, David Capra and Paul Williams and 2014-2015 Directors of Kate Britton, Tulleah Pearce, Elliott Bryce Foulkes and Jane Gillespie. Fran Barrett and Tesha Malott kept us in check variously as Manager.

I was there for the move from Chalmers St to the Depot. Michael Moran, Grant Wallwork and Nick Dorey did a masterful job of the build, spurred on by relentless energy of Andrew Moran and JD and Tesha’s attention to detail.

For me, it was really about being part of lineage of sorts; the continuity of emerging practice tied to a space. My own directorship was inspired by observing the 2006-2012 Directors and the prospect of working with the 2013-2014 team.

Of all the moments from my Directorship, the best moments for me where the ‘smokos’ during the renovation; post-work afternoons in the courtyard, covered in filth, amongst depot debris and building materials. It was the most tangible aspect of my time at Firstdraft, and I was lucky to share it with very passionate Directors and innumerable artists.

 

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Sarah Goffman

Sarah Goffman, Come Visit Lucy for a Lucky Charm, 1996. Turmeric, pins, toys, plastic, found objects, blue ink, and rice noodles 

 

 

Sarah Goffman on Firstdraft Gallery 1995-96

 

AS PAST DIRECTOR

What years were you a director of Firstdraft? Who else was a director during this time?

95-96 Alex Gawronski, Philipa Veitch, Gianni Wise, Elvis Richardson

Can you describe the atmosphere at a Firstdraft opening/event at the time that you were a director?

Always awesome. The openings were vital for exchange and debate about the work. Sharing.

What’s your most memorable moment as a Firstdraft director?

Seeing artists realise their works, from reading their proposals to seeing the outcome.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

It would often showcase artists who were just starting out and give them the opportunity to realise a large scale exhibition in a professional setting.

Was there a predominance of practice exhibited while you were a director?

Just the usual weird experimental outrageous and extreme run of the mill.

 

AS ARTIST

What did it mean for you to exhibit at Firstdraft in 1996?

1996; it was my largest exhibition to date, Come Visit Lucy for a Lucky Charm, and I had a ball. I got my first NAVA grant for it, hired a performer (Michael Cohen), collaborated with a sound artist (can’t remember her name!), got Council permission to use the footpath outside, I lit fires, I made a stinky mess, and worked harder than I ever have…it was fantastic and illuminating and has been the basis of my practice ever since.

Did exhibiting at Firstdraft impact on your practice, if so how?

By working there I met so many people and it was formative to my practice, untold opportunities came about as a result and I used my slides for further proposals.

 

 


 

LYNDA DRAPER

Lynda Draper, Annette, 2013.  Annette earthenware, various glazes, 45 x 54 x 54 cm. Artbank Collection, purchased 2014.

 

Linda Draper on exhibiting in 2013

 

What did it mean for you to exhibit at Firstdraft in August 2013?

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to exhibit at Firstdraft where so many important contemporary artists have emerged over the past 30 years. It was great exhibiting ceramic works within the context of Firstdraft, and to have artists from a range of arts backgrounds respond to the exhibition in such a positive way, many expressed an eagerness to incorporate ceramics into their art practice.

Did exhibiting at Firstdraft impact on your practice, if so how?

I found the experience empowering and liberating which has impacted my art practice. Since the exhibition I have mentored many artists who have introduced ceramics into their practice, they have brought their individual sensibilities to the material and seem open to endless possibilities. This newfound engagement with the ceramic medium prompted me to curate the exhibition Glazed and Confused: Ceramics in Contemporary Art Practice, which opened at Hazelhurst Regional Art Gallery in December 2014.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

Firstdraft is so incredibly important, it is an arts forum where risks and alternative visions can be realised within a supportive environment. So many amazing writers, curators and artists have emerged from Firstdraft; it truly has been central to the future of Contemporary Art.

 

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 Bruce, 2013. Earthenware & glaze. H25cm x W25cm x D23cm
 

 

 

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Michaela Gleave on Firstdraft Gallery 2006-08

 

AS PAST DIRECTOR

What years were you a director of Firstdraft? Who else was a director during this time?

I was on the board of Firstdraft from 2006 – 2008, brought on halfway between two boards and straddling 3 sets of directors. I was on the board with: Sean Rafferty, Kathryn Gray, Elizabeth Reidy, Helena Lesley, Michael Moran, Daniel Green, Penelope Benton, Camille Serisier, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Will French, Cy Norman, Di Smith and Kelly Doley.

Can you describe the atmosphere at a Firstdraft opening/event at the time that you were a director?

Openings were usually big, lots of beer drunk, a good time had by all.

What’s your most memorable moment as a Firstdraft director?

I have lots of wonderful memories of my fantastic co-directors. Special friendships were forged during this period, and I really appreciate all of these people and the experiences we shared: dancing at 4am after an install at Inflight ARI in Hobart; watching giant, sparkly red, polystyrene 21 numerals disappear off into the night after our 21st Birthday Ball at the Paddington RSL; arguing over the merits of this or that proposal in the wee hours of the morning; sharing excitement over the prospect of having a live ostrich in the gallery; commiserating that once again that the garbage company hadn’t picked up our rubbish, that yet another artist had blocked the fire escape, sink and/or left every single paintbrush/roller/paint tray unwrapped so we’d have to replace all the painting gear yet again.

Why do you think Firstdraft is important?

Firstdraft has played a crucial part in the ecology of the arts in Australia for 30 years, encouraging diverse and experimental practices from around the country. It has provided many young artists the opportunity of having their first solo show, and supporting entire generations in their journey as artists, curators and writers. It’s crucial that such paces exist run by artists for artists. Places like Firstdraft are where innovation happens, where new forms of engagement are born, and where there’s a freedom to operate outside of the vested interests of the commerce art world.

Was there a predominance of practice exhibited while you were a director?

We very firmly saw our role as providing a space for practices not being addressed by other sectors of the art world, with a focus on experimental, non commercial practices. Sound was something not addressed by institutions at the time for example, and installation featured prominently, but we made sure to show a whole range of practices across diverse mediums

AS AN ARTIST

What did it mean for you to exhibit at Firstdraft in 2006?

I had my first solo show in Sydney at Firstdraft in 2006. The install was big. I constructed a false floor that extended over the big dip in the floor of back gallery, built and plastered a bunch of false walls, didn’t sleep for 3 days and started having hallucinations the morning of the opening. The plaster was still wet in places underneath the paint when the show opened. I learnt a lot. It remains an important work for me and one I’m still proud of.

Did exhibiting at Firstdraft impact on your practice, if so how?

Yes. The hard work I put in during the install was enough for the directors at the time to ask me to join the board. I also had the opportunity of recreating that work at the MCA as part of Primavera a couple of years later. This exhibition, and the professional development opportunities that being a board member opened up, have been crucial in setting me on my career path.

“I still remember strongly that moment when I realised this thing was ours, that no one was telling us what to do, and that we had both the responsibility and power to make it what we wanted.”

 


 

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