Flying Arts Alliance Queensland Regional Arts Awards
Cairns Regional Mayor, Cr Bob Manning and Mrs Manning; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands around Cairns, and extend respectful greetings to Elders, past, present and emerging.
Graeme and I are delighted to join you in this impressive new Court House Gallery for tonight’s celebration.
It is our first official visit to Cairns since I was sworn in as Governor in November and we have both been greatly heartened by the optimism shown by Far North Queenslanders as this great region begins to emerge from the long shadow of COVID-19.
This exhibition and the new gallery are vibrant signs of that optimism, and I congratulate the Flying Arts Alliance, Museums and Galleries Queensland and other partners on their choice of Cairns as the first of 11 centres around the State where Paint the Town will be seen over the next two years.
The work of the 28 finalists in the 2021 Queensland Regional Art Awards demonstrates the enormous depth and breadth of talent that exists in our State’s rural and regional areas.
In fact, it’s clear that talent doesn’t just exist in those communities, it thrives – and that is largely thanks to Merv Moriarty and the concept Flying Arts.
Fifty years ago, a young, red-bearded Merv quite literally dropped in from the sky, offering inspiration and new ideas to hundreds of isolated visual artists; happily, he saw Flying Arts mark its 50th anniversary before he died last November at the age of 84.
Merv’s death saddened the Flying Arts community.
But his astonishing total of 400,000 kilometres of air travel over so many years has left an enduring legacy throughout the State, as well as indelible memories of this charismatic champion of the arts.
Merv may be sorely missed, but the Regional Arts Awards continue to honour his memory.
In the 12 years since the awards began, artists each year have been challenged by the sorts of themes that Merv himself might have chosen. This year, for the theme Paint the Town, they were asked to consider a single, deceptively simple question: ‘How do you celebrate?’
It’s a particularly fitting question for this year when the Alliance celebrates 50 years of connecting artists, educators and communities.
But it’s also a fitting question for our times – living through a global pandemic has prompted us all to consider what it is that enriches our lives, brings us joy and gives us cause to celebrate.
Tonight certainly gives us a reason to celebrate and, on behalf of all Queenslanders, I warmly congratulate the finalists and winners, and thank everyone involved in bringing the exhibition to fruition.
It is now my great privilege to present this certificate of vice-regal Patronage to your co-Chairs.
Now, with genuine pleasure I officially launch Paint the Town and wish the organisers and participants well for the fantastic weekend of activities ahead, and wish the artists, the Flying Arts Alliance, Museums and Galleries Queensland and all supporters, every success as the exhibition sets off on its two-year journey, painting Queensland towns wherever it goes.