EACH July for the past 17 years, artists and art lovers have trekked to the state’s one-time pearling capital, Cossack, 1,600 kilometres north of Perth, for Australia’s most remote regional art exhibition and richest acquisitive art prize – the Cossack Ar
EACH July for the past 17 years, artists and art lovers have trekked to the state’s one-time pearling capital, Cossack, 1,600 kilometres north of Perth, for Australia’s most remote regional art exhibition and richest acquisitive art prize – the Cossack Art Awards.
The art works are housed in the heritage-listed Cossack Bond Store, with the awards organised by the Shire of Roebourne, and sponsored by a raft of corporate sponsors, since their inception in 1993.
This year the local council changed its strategy, employing the services of Archipelago Arts director and consultant Colette McEntee, who restructured the sponsorship packages available to interested sponsors of the program.
Cossack had three sponsors in its inaugural year – stakeholders in the local iron ore-rich community Woodside, Hamersley Iron and Robe River Iron.
This year the awards had a total of 16 sponsors, including the likes of original sponsor and major gas producer Woodside and its North West Shelf venture partners, as well as mining company Citic Pacific Mining and WA Business News 40under40 winners Sean and Lisa Clarke’s local vehicle hire company, McLarens Hire.
Ms McEntee said changing the structure of sponsorship was a move that allowed for a clear understanding in what sponsorship entailed.
“We created a level of standardisation which allowed people to feel on a level pegging,” she said.
“Recognising principal partners, patrons, platinum sponsors, gold sponsors, silver, bronze and associate sponsors means there is no grey area.”
Ms McEntee said she had perceived more interest from companies sponsoring the awards since taking over the curator’s role this year, and categorising the different levels of sponsorship was a move that would build the capacity to grow the prize pool.
She said there had been a spike in the level of interest from artists entering the awards, with 270 this year.
“The awards are an opportunity for artists to be showcased alongside high-profile artists from this state and the rest of the country, and for those artists to learn from the expertise of those artists and the judges,” Ms McEntee said.
The exhibition has attracted national and international admirers as well as a steady stream of renowned artists since 1993 – Robert Juniper and Sue Briggs among them – and now offers its winners $77,000 in collective prize money.
Ms McEntee is passionate about developing regional artists’ opportunities and said Cossack was an opportunity for the Pilbara region to garner support for and develop opportunities for regional artists.
She said the Pilbara region should grow support for regional arts by looking to examples such as the Denmark Arts Council, which was incorporated in 1983 and is funded by the state government through Country Arts WA and the shire of Denmark, and works to provide a diverse range of arts activities to communities and visitors of the Walpole, Mt Barker and Albany regions.
“My focus in the future is to develop the opportunities in the area. Being aware of what spaces are available in the area, speaking to companies, engaging with companies, Artsource, the state government, stakeholders and using events like the Cossack art awards and its high profile to leverage attention on the region and the lack of opportunities,” Ms McEntee said.