Art at the h.ART gets Lobethal beating Lobethal

A group of art enthusiasts in the small town of Lobethal, South Australia, saw a great opportunity to boost community morale at the same time as enhancing the cultural vibrancy of the area through a series of art exhibitions.

As the major local employer from before World War II until 1993, the Onkaparinga Woollen Mill complex holds strong memories for most Lobethal residents. Now empty, it is a prominent reminder of the area’s lost industry.

The Hills Art (h.ART) initiative aimed to engage people through art via a pop-up art gallery, and what better place to do this than the empty space at the old Mill, which is now also known as the Adelaide Hills Business and Tourism Centre.

Getting started

Lobethal Community Association received a $3,000 grant from FRRR’s Small Grants for Rural Communities (SGRC) program to get the project up and running. But they knew to make this large-scale project a success, local support was key.

The Association utilised local connections amongst the committee members, particularly volunteers with long standing family businesses and wide local networks. They also built and fostered a strong relationship with the local Council, seeking their buy-in and keeping them informed throughout the project.

Getting traction

Calling on local contacts, the exhibitions were curated from in-kind support, donated goods and volunteer time.

The Association approached local artists to be involved, as well as South Australian and national artists with a larger following – this helped to spread the word and increased the number of visitors.

The seed funding from FRRR generated interest and support in the planned exhibitions, however, the Lobethal Community Association needed to generate additional income to make the project sustainable and cover costs like marketing. To do this, they developed several funding sources including sponsorships, entry fees, and commission from retail sales through a gallery shop.

The results speak for themselves

Four pop-up exhibitions and a pop-up arts market were held in three different locations within the Onkaparinga Woollen Mill complex. The organising committee took a purpose-driven approach to evaluate the project over the 12-month period, with the aim of demonstrating that an arts facility could be viable in Lobethal. They used a range of methods to collect data, such as visitor statistics, comment books, online surveys and photos.

The end results:

  • Visitors: 2000
  • Media stories: 19
  • Participating artists: 72
  • Volunteers: 53
  • Sponsorships: 12 local businesses, two metropolitan businesses and the Adelaide Hills Council

“h.ART has inspired the whole community. Everyone is excited to have regular exhibitions in the town that also reflect the history of the Onkaparinga Woollen Mill. h.ART is now a key driver of the public space that will also involve the history of the Onkaparinga Woollen Mill and other community groups.” 

An Adelaide Hills Councillor

h.ART received many accolades, but the most significant was achieved this year. The Adelaide Hills Council developed a ‘Business Development Framework’ report as part of its strategic plan to guide the development of an Arts and Heritage Hub at the old Woollen Mill with a view to stimulating job creation, boost tourism and creating a vibrant cultural hub, and the report was unanimously accepted at the February 2018 Council meeting.  

Council has allocated $50,000 this financial year and further funds will be available for the next year to employ a Director to implement the vision. A Heritage Officer will also be employed part-time to develop a heritage interpretation plan with the Onkaparinga Woollen Mill Museum, and an application has been made to the Commonwealth’s ‘Building Better Regions’ Fund for a grant for infrastructure development. This is a wonderful result for the Lobethal community!

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