On 2 March, we re-opened our doors to the public following Arts Queensland’s renovation, and the opening of Bulmba-ja on 29 February.
After a long 18 months away from home and an exciting transition from KickArts to NorthSite, it’s been truly wonderful to be back doing our business alongside JUTE Theatre Company, Miriki Performing Arts and Pryce Centre for Arts and Culture.
An in-bound travel ban from affected countries, in place from 1 February was noticeable on the streets of Cairns with a huge drop in tourist numbers, so we acted early on COVID-19 awareness introducing strict ‘stay-home-if-sick policy’ and then introduced new personal hygiene practices from our first day of opening the NorthSite Store and galleries on 2 March 2020. Wet ones all round!!
Arts Queensland also increased cleaning of the building and surfaces and we continue to follow Queensland Department of Health advice and guidelines.
On Friday afternoon following the Prime Minister’s address, we began to have conversations about the responsibility of holding an Artists’ Party in two weeks time.
As we work with a lot of wonderful mob and the care of all our artists, audiences and the Elders in our communities is of upmost importance, we made the tough call postpone the first long-awaited exhibition openings. While the numbers were over 300 but capped under the recommended limit of 500 people for social gatherings, we tried to anticipate a situation two weeks ahead, and acted, due to the span of attendees travelling from Far North Indigenous communities and various cities and the need to provide some clarity around guests’ travel plans.
On Saturday we postponed the NorthSite Opening – Artists’ Party. Thank you to everyone who has pre-booked tickets. There will be another time to really celebrate when we reopen.
Last night (Sunday 15 March), as a precautionary measure we cancelled flights booked for people flying in from communities for an exhibition project meeting taking place here over next days. A difficult and disappointing decision for the Missi family, for an exhibition already once postponed through building delays, but a precautionary measure we are glad we made. The planning continues when things calm here with planning and more is known about the situation we face.
All along the way we are assessing the immediate situation and following the WHO and Qld Health daily advice.
Due to the size of our small team, we also made a call to immediately treat today (Monday) as a work-from-home day, testing the online working capacity of our team.
We’ve begun assessing the impact of a potential closure, a process of communication with affected stakeholders who are affected this week (16-20 March), cancelling our artist-in-residence with Peter Morrison who was ready for his second day back with us, drawing towards his upcoming exhibition. For the time being, school group visits and other programs are postponed due to staff capacity, as we prepare for a potential temporary closure and until more information becomes available on the situation locally. Sorry Mossman State School – we were so looking forward to seeing you!
The NorthSite Galleries and NorthSite Store are also closed for today 17 March as staff undertake flexible working arrangements and take a day now, to look after their family’s needs at this time. It’s important to make sure you have access to required prescriptions etc as we don’t know timelines for inevitable closures. We should all plan for various scenarios and how we’ll ride them out.
NorthSite has done an enormous amount of work behind the scenes this past year – so we have a great strategic plan and program in place and we are looking at ways that we’ll to continue to work and share art with you. Keeping things ticking at this time is important.
We are continuing to undertake our work and are awaiting information from Arts Queensland, as the state arts body and building management. We anticipate and plan for a temporary closure at some point. It’s an ever evolving situation.
What is clear now, is that we will continue to share the stories of the North and support artists as best we can.
We’re in this together. Take care
Ashleigh Campbell, Director