The contemporary arts space propelling local artists forward

April 22, 2023 BY

The 2021 Constellations exhibition. Photo: AMBER SMITH

Platform Arts is just that – a platform for young and emerging artists across Greater Geelong.

The space was originally founded nearly three decades ago in 1996 as a youth arts organisation, Court House Youth Arts.

Platform Arts director Ilana Russell said since the beginning, the mission had a primary focus on young and emerging artists.

“When we were operating as Court House Youth Arts, we were looking to support the next generation of artists, and creative risk takers, it was really nurturing the next generation, which we’re still doing.”

But now, alongside this focus, Platform Arts has expanded its mission. Russell said the multidisciplinary contemporary arts space had turned its focus for the past year to creating a platform for not just local artists, but the local art scene too.

“Our vision has changed to be broader in that that we want to positing Platform Arts and Geelong as well within a broader national discourse.

“So, we want to be actively contributing to that through the conceptualisation and the development of experimental and contemporary arts practise from the region and supported by the region.

“And to provide a really strong arts development framework, from conceptual stages to presentation both in Geelong and international contexts.”

Platform Arts executive director Ilana Russell. Photo: SUPPLIED


The organisation has been expanding its programs and reach to work with artists of all ages and stages of their practice and career since 2018, a process which intensified during the pandemic and became official a year ago.

2021 was the last year the organisation operated as a youth arts-specific space, with 2022 being the start of the new contemporary platform.

“It was really great to be able to engage with some of our alumni that we hadn’t worked with for a little while because they had grown out of that youth phase,” Russell said.

“And it was a really positive conversation in our community and a lot of people were really excited by the potential about what an expansion could look like for Platform Arts.

“Just having that really intergenerational and cross-practice community has really expanded our program and also opened up an opportunity for us to really focus on more experimental programming.”

The multi-artform space works with visual artists, performance artists, dancers, musicians, and artists across diverse disciplines.

It is now welcoming new and exciting displays, performances and more from both local and international artists and performers.

“So, we’ve been able to bring in some really great performance works and some really great performances, exhibitions, public programs, to Geelong and to Platform Arts and to build up new audiences for some more experimental works,” Russell said.

“We just had an incredible performance called The Director which was by a Melbourne group Aphids, which was at Motor Home Arts prior to coming to Geelong.”

The Director showed at Platform Arts in 2023. Photo: GENEVIEVE WALSHE


She said the focus was still on artist development, with programs such as Platform LAB, a long-form residency program that works with artists in intensive one-on-one or small group contexts.

“We’ve got a really exciting program called Neighbourhood Lab which we’ve just launched this year which works specifically with young artists to build up their professional development and connect them as part of a community with really engaged artists, to work with mentors and build up their practise over a 12-month period.

“All artists are paid to be part of it, which is really important to us.”

Russell said the space was also extremely proud of their YOOKAPA program.

“YOOKAPA is a First Nations creative program, created by mob for mob, grounded in the sovereignty and self-determination of First Nations people.”

YOOKAPA is the Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong word for the notion of giving and receiving. The program celebrates YOOKAPA as action, as a method of practice and as purpose in building relationships through interconnectedness, collaboration, exchange and reciprocity.

Anything and Everything, a 2022 Platform Arts exhibition. Photo: SARAH WALKER


Russell said the progam mostly worked with emerging artists in the Geelong region.

“This year it’s working with eight artists, and it will support them through open studio sessions, through mentorships, a professional program, off site intensives. So it will be really responding to the needs of those First Nations artists and supporting and celebrating them through exhibitions, public programs and outcomes.

“We’ve got a mural major public art mission that will be launching through April 24 at Labuan Square in Norlane; that is a YOOKAPA project.”

To find out more about coming exhibitions at Platform Arts, head to platformarts.org.au .