HomeArticlesArts & CultureGold Coast creative talent to the fore: We meet seven local arts grant recipients

Gold Coast creative talent to the fore: We meet seven local arts grant recipients

Natalie O’Driscoll | August 2020

The talent and innovation of Gold Coast creatives has been recognised and rewarded with an impressive share of state funding for proposed music and arts projects.

On Monday 20 July, 22 Gold Coast artists and musicians were announced as successful recipients of Queensland Government stART Grant funding, delivered through Placemakers* Gold Coast and QMusic.

The stART Grant initiative has provided crucial support to the arts industry with over $500,000 worth of funding to be provided to 160 selected applicants across Queensland, and among the list of successful recipients were 22 artists from the Gold Coast, in an acknowledgement of the exceptional hub of creative talent in our city.

The Program was established by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland to support the state’s independent creative practitioners impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with each artist receiving $3,000 towards a project of their choice.

We thought we’d meet some of the recipients and find out a little more about their projects.

Mint Art House

Natalie Popovski runs Mint Art House, an artist-run studio and workspace in Burleigh Heads. Home to 14 local artists including 2019 SWELL Sculpture Festival main prize winners Dion Parker and Andrew Cullen, Mint Art House bolsters the local arts scene through workshops and collaborative projects.

COVID restrictions meant that their previously planned series of workshops could no longer proceed, and to top things off, the team were hit with a relocation, as the landlord at their previous space wanted to repurpose. Nevertheless, the crew soldiered on, finding a new home, and applying for the stART Grant in order to help plan and bring to life a new series of summer workshops.

Natalie remains positive about the whole thing.

“I think it’ll be really good,” she says. “The place we have moved to is a bigger space for the workshops, which will be a great series, especially for people who are new to art and curious. It will also be a great chance for us to collaborate with one another.”

The artists are still exploring the workshop themes, but they’re already chatting with a ceramicist about ancient techniques, among other exciting ideas. Natalie is thankful for the opportunity to bring these fascinating mediums back to the public.

“We’re really grateful for the support and that Placemakers* chose us. I think they like what we’re about. It’s great to have people supporting independent artists, and we have a strong community support as well which is great.”

Mayella Dewis

Mayella Dewis is a professional drummer and multi-instrumentalist who has spent the majority of her career travelling to Indigenous communities in order to deliver workshops for disengaged youth.

The program she helps to run provides a platform for the disengaged youth within the communities to be able to connect with the creative arts in general – including songwriting, music, dance, visual arts and digital storytelling – and facilitators also connect them with Indigenous elders in the community, as well as their language(s).

Mayella plans to use the stART Grant to create a podcast that focuses on the voices of First Nations people within the Australian Music Industry.

“I grew up on the Gold Coast and did my schooling there,” she explains. “As a First Nations person I did feel a bit of the gap in the learning framework – especially when we’re naturally drawn to the creative arts – I wasn’t a bad student, but I couldn’t connect with the learning style.”

Something Mayella has noticed as a First Nations professional musician – and a female drummer to boot – is that many First Nations artists tend to have the same kind of stories and encounter the same kind of barriers.

“We kind of all go through the same struggles to succeed and progress in our careers, and there are different standards that we’re held to in the industry: We have to work harder, we have to be intentional with being on time, more diligent, more professional than other people, and that sort of stuff,” she says.

“Most of us are not being made aware how to get around these little stumbling blocks in our careers, it’s something that’s been on my heart for a bit to start this conversation and make people more aware.”

2020 and the Black Lives Matter movement has opened a door for these issues to be brought to light, and Mayella hopes that her yet-to-be-named podcast will give a voice to people of colour and a safe place for them to talk and have healthy, productive conversations without any hostility or malice.

Watch this space for a 2021 launch.

Karl S Williams

Most Gold Coasters would be aware of Karl S Williams as a rootsy blues singer for the ages. In February 2020, the soulful troubadour dropped an astonishing masterstroke of an album named ‘Lifeblood’, a passion project that was seven years in the making.

Karl’s plan to create music videos to accompany the gut-wrenching songs from ‘Lifeblood’ was put on hold with the advent of COVID shutdowns and cessation of his touring income. Enter the stART Grant.

“I always hoped to create a series of videos for this album which will interlink to become a continuous film spanning the length of the album,” says Karl. “A big part of this will be animating my drawings but there will be video elements as well. The stART Grant won’t see the whole project to completion but will definitely get the ball rolling.”

Karl and his band were midway through the album’s release tour when everything shut down.

“I have no complaints about this, it is all for a greater good, but I do wish for these songs to reach as many ears as possible,” Karl explains. “So much work and life(blood) went into this album (from many people, not just me) so I want it to live, even if we can’t tour so much right now. I suppose creating a visual accompaniment to the album will be a way of re-launching it in a way and shedding new light on the songs.”

Karl is hoping to have a completed video for one of the songs as well as a plan/storyboards for completing the others.

Follow Karl S Williams on his socials for updates about the video project.

Guy Cooper

Guy Cooper would be known to many creatives on the Gold Coast, with the sought-after producer, label owner and musician also dabbling in the worlds of arts and sculpture over the last few years.

Possessed of an intense passion for the environment, Guy has combined his skill sets and interests into his latest grant-winning effort, an artistic sound and video project by the name of Gold Coast Soundwave.

Guy plans to capture the soundscapes of the Gold Coast utilising 3D Ambisonic microphones with supporting high res 360 video and then intends to present and deliver them on a digital website platform.

Visually important soundscapes such as the Spit, Main Beach, Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Palm Beach, Burleigh, Currumbin Alley, Tallebudgera Valley, Springbrook, Tallai, Nerang and Southport will be included.

“As a musician and sound sculpture artist I find my interests and passions over the past years have focused on the connection of our natural and the man-made environments that surround us,” Guy explains.

“I’ve been exploring and finding some balance between creating a sustainable living experience that embraces our city’s natural beauty and allows its current inhabitants to appreciate and connect with our land and country.

“Music and audio is more than a passion – it is my life – and I want to use this skill set to bring some magic and appreciation of our city’s environments to more people. The stART grant is a great opportunity for artists during these pandemic times.”

The final set of videos will be made free to the public at goldcoastsoundwave.com upon their completion in mid-September.

Kate Leopold

The folksy stylings of Gold Coast musician Kate Leopold would be familiar to regular live music goers on the Gold Coast. Whether working as a solo artist or performing at the front of popular band Leopold’s Treat, Kate’s heartfelt lyrics and smiling visage draw people inexorably in to her performances.

In the second half of last year, Kate recorded an EP by the name of ‘Rebirth Dreaming’ with the help of a RADF grant. An emotional project from the start, it was dedicated to young poet friend named Angus who passed away suddenly, and was the first offering from her new solo project.

Having completed the actual recording, Kate applied for the stART grant to help cover some of her commitments in launching the music, including costs associated with digital distribution and release, merchandise and launch event/s.

“With Angus’ father’s blessing, I named the EP after a poem he wrote, to tell the story of his artwork, which I had witnessed him creating,” explains Kate.

“He was an incredible young man who had a big heart… and a strong connection with his Indigenous (Wiradjuri) roots, and dreamed of a new way of living on the earth and walked it too. I’m pretty sure he inspired everyone he met.”

The EP was a collaborative project between Kate and some talented local musicians and it means a great deal to her that this work gets the opportunity to see the light of day.

“I am filled with gratitude to be a recipient of this funding, as the EP contains a collection of songs that are very close to my heart. I would like to really honour this music and everyone who has contributed, as well as the transformation I have experienced through the process of writing and recording these songs and beginning to share them within my close community. In my heart the greatest outcomes would be to bring hope, joy and inspiration to many people, particularly anyone who has been experiencing challenges in these recent times.”

Expect news on a release and launch to come.

Richard Neill

Richard Neill is a Gold Coast music scene stalwart, with regular performances at venues and events all around the city including bars, restaurants, weddings and parties. Well, until March that is.

He had planned to make a few videos of himself performing cover songs to include with his promo materials, but once he saw the beautiful studio where he was shooting his video and the incredible talents of his videographer, he felt that using them on covers would be wasted, and recorded an original piece instead.

The result is ‘You’ll Never Sleep Alone Again’, a heartfelt alt-folk ballad with a video that makes the best use of Gold Coast’s natural beauty.

Richard used his stART Grant funds to hire local audio engineer Benny D Williams to help with the track recording and mixing, the ubiquitous Paul Blakey for mastering, and spent the rest on promo and an epic August launch shindig at Studio One16 in Burleigh, where part of the video was recorded.

“As the Gold Coast has given me so much opportunity over the years and ultimately allowed me to fulfil my dreams of becoming a full-time musician, I wanted to give back to the community that has given me so much,” explains Richard about his decision to cover the costs for the entire project and event.

“Given my primary means of income has been severely impacted by the recent and ongoing COVID-19, upon receiving confirmation from QMusic that my application had been successful I was overjoyed to learn that Arts Queensland and QMusic shared in my enthusiasm for this project and wanted to help fund it,” he continues.

“I hope that this project will elevate my profile as an artist within the community and open the door to further creative opportunities.

You can check out ‘You’ll Never Fall Asleep Alone Again’ now on YouTube or over at richardneillmusic.com.


Award-winning Gold Coast pop artist ELSKA creates melodic, harp-infused pop music designed for daydreaming, road tripping and romance.

The project that led ELSKA to apply for the stART Grant was a brave and ambitious one – she is currently in the process of undertaking a commitment to write 30 songs in 30 days. And she’s calling it the #ConstantCreationProject.

ELSKA explains how she came up with the idea, and what she hopes to achieve.

“By showing up to my craft daily and dedicating time to develop my songwriting skills, I hope to walk away from this experience a stronger songwriter,” she tells us.

“I want to use this project to expand my songwriting tool belt by incorporating a variety of songwriting exercises, ideas, prompts and techniques to spark my creativity – with the goal that the more

I explore different writing methods, the easier it will be to dip into my writing tool belt in the future.”

Of course, she’s also hoping the 30 days will produce a few gems for future release. It’s not just herself she’s seeking to inspire, either, with the breezy harpist issuing a challenge to other artists out there.

“Songwriters (and creatives in general) can be super judgemental around what they create. We can put up blocks and boundaries on ourselves, especially while we are in the very early stages of creating something new. Guilty!

“But the creative brain is like any other muscle – the more you flex it, the bigger it grows and in turn, the easier it becomes to switch on when you need to tap into it. So I would LOVE to challenge other songwriters and creatives to step up and challenge their own creative practice by joining in on their own 30 day #ConstantCreationProject!

“Creativity is something we all have, and have access to. It’s anything we do that excites us, invigorates us, or offers a moment of pure joy. Creativity is the permission we give to ourselves to do what we love. What would happen if you accessed your creativity every day? If you decided to play? If you forgot the boundaries for a moment, stepped outside your comfort zone and just said yes?”

Follow ELSKA’s #ConstantCreationProject on her Instagram @elskamusic. She’s currently halfway through it.

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