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Sunday, June 20, 2021

DESIGN Canberra 2020 festival launches

Monaro Mall’s City Walk entry was the site for this morning’s official launch of DESIGN Canberra 2020.

Standing since 1963, the location is a striking, albeit understated, example of Canberra’s strong design history; an embodiment of exactly what the festival celebrates.

The entrance’s often unnoticed elegant arched canopies, nine-metre-tall slim pillars and the Frank Hinder glass mosaic on the roof have been complemented by local artist Hannah Quinlivan’s newly commissioned site-specific installation titled Desiderium, a large scale, multi-layered 3D spatial drawing.

With over 200 events spanning across Canberra including open studios, talks, public art works, and tours, DESIGN Canberra 2020 would have seemed unthinkable back in March.

“This year we’re pinching ourselves that we’ve been able to get it over the line,” festival program director Kate Nixon told Canberra Weekly.

Ms Nixon said even when the uncertainty of the pandemic swept across the world earlier this year, with time on their side the plan was to forge ahead with the event.

“Every single person I spoke to said ‘oh, you have to go ahead with it, we want something to look forward to, so many opportunities have been lost to artists’,” she said.

“We did heaps of planning around under each level of restrictions depending on what happened, how could we deliver, so there is at least some version of the festival.”

From a COVID-safe perspective, Ms Nixon said only a few tweaks were made to the program given so many of the events that comprise DESIGN Canberra comply or are easily adapted.

“The way that we have always delivered the festival is quite COVID-friendly anyway,” she said. “There’s lots of outdoor events, small tours and things like that that are quite easy to adapt.

“We’re not going to be doing any parties with 500 people or anything like that, so those really big events were out of the question.

“A lot more of our events are ticketed this year just so we can manage the numbers and make sure people turn up.”

Ms Nixon said a key underpinning of the 2020 festival, and of their work more broadly, is to support and foster the local artistic community.

“At the heart of our planning has been how do we give back and how do we support that community of makers,” she said.

“Creating those opportunities for artists to sell work directly to the public or commission them to make work and make their practice more visible is really important.”

DESIGN Canberra 2020 will be the festival’s seventh iteration, and the fifth delivered by Ms Nixon and festival artistic director Rachael Coghlan.

Over that time, DESIGN Canberra’s attraction has reached further and further abroad, becoming a tourist drawcard. Ms Nixon said she hopes to see tourists continue to visit in 2020 due to favourable circumstances.

“We’re so lucky here because Canberra is such a safe, easy destination to get to, so I think we will see a lot of people this year making that trip.

“With Canberra Airport opening up these new links with Ballina … we’re getting a lot of interest from people up that way who can now easily come to Canberra.

“Hopefully, we should see some more of those markets open up for us.”

DESIGN Canberra 2020 runs across the Capital from 9 to 29 November; designcanberrafestival.com.au

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