The dynamic activities of the Queensland government to promote indigenous art creation and its marketing have born potentially rich commercial fruit. The Government has announced plans to put $12M into the development of Queensland Indigenous arts over the next 4 years, part of which will include backing the inaugural Cairns Art Fair, which opens in the aftermath of the Telstra Awards in Darwin on 22nd August.

This emphasis on Cairns has produced a comparable commercial gesture from the formerly Brisbane-based NEWflames Foundation, which has joined with the Australian Art Print Network (AAPN) to launch CANOPY ARTS FNQ – a collection of workshops and showspaces – to be located in at 124 Grafton Street in the centre of the Cairns CBD.

The building will be developed to accommodate a fine-art printmaking studio, artist workshop and individual access studios, and a large showroom/gallery, all dedicated to Queensland Indigenous artists. The printmaking studio initiative has caused the relocation of master printer Theo Tremblay, a pioneer of collaborative printmaking and publishing, Tremblay’s involvement will enable the NEWflames Foundation to mentor Aboriginal and Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait) artists in a range of print mediums including etching, lithography, screen-printing, mono printing, relief/wood cut and papermaking.

The Australian Art Print Network’s participation will allow the CONOPY output to be published, promoted, and distributed nationally and internationally. AAPN is the largest Australian publisher and wholesaler of indigenous fine art prints. Amongst its considerable successes have been bringing the work of Torres Strait Islander artists Denis Nona and Alick Tipoti to audiences throughout Australia and overseas. With support from the Queensland Indigenous Arts Marketing Export Agency, AAPN has developed a unique business model focusing on international exhibitions, the most recent of which saw Nona and Tipoti exhibiting at one of the leading commercial galleries in central Manhattan’s Chelsea Art Precinct. According to Michael Kershaw, Managing Director of the AAPN, ˜this new facility in Cairns will open up opportunities for us to help other Torres Strait Islander and FNQ artists to expand and commercialise their art practice and hopefully replicate the success we have enjoyed with some of the artists we currently represent’

There could also be room for sculptural work in a variety of materials in the project. According to coordinator Adrian Newstead of Sydney’s Coo-ee Gallery, ˜CANOPY will be partnering with companies like the highly successful and innovative Brisbane foundry, Urban Art Projects to further their collaboration with Indigenous artists in the development of three dimensional works.’