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Newcastle Museum Shines Spotlight on First Nations Creatives

Artist Virginia McDonald, musician Jacob Cummins, Councillor Deahnna Richardson and City of Newcastle Museum, Archive, Libraries and Learning Director Julie Baird celebrate the launch of the FIRST exhibition at Newcastle Museum.

The talent and creativity of Newcastle's diverse First Nations people is being celebrated through a new exhibition curated by Newcastle Museum.


Entitled FIRST, the exhibition showcases the work of 16 First Nations creatives who have a link to Newcastle and the Hunter, featuring everything from light projections and videos to paintings, glass work and sculpture.

A surfboard, customised shoes, clothing and even a giant shark extend the creative works beyond more traditional artistic mediums, while the exhibition also features four genre-bending musical works.

City of Newcastle's Museum, Archive, Libraries and Learning Director Julie Baird said the exhibition provides insight into the diverse practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives.

"When Newcastle Museum made a call out for First Nations creatives to be involved in this exhibition, we were overwhelmed by the positive community response. Designers, musicians, artists, and architects have shared their practice and insight for this unusual exhibition, which showcases the creativity in Newcastle's diverse First Nations people," Ms Baird said.

"FIRST offers a blank canvas for creatives to shift the mindset on what is usually conceived as having to fit into traditional work while still embodying the creatives' cultural identity - this is new ideas, ancient legacy and boundless creativity across a wide range of disciplines to demonstrate how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bring their culture to a variety of creative forms."

Newcastle Councillor and proud Wiradjuri woman Deahnna Richardson encouraged people to read the stories accompanying each of the works in this free exhibition, which is the first of its kind for Newcastle Museum.

"This exhibition demonstrates Newcastle Museum's commitment to providing space for First Nations people to share their own stories, amplifying their voices and enriching Newcastle's cultural offering through temporary exhibitions," Cr Richardson said.

"By showcasing the extraordinary cultural practices of our First Nations people in contemporary ways, this exhibition will allow us to gain new perspectives and celebrate the work of local emerging and established creatives."

Gomeroi man and musician Jacob Cummins said it was important for museums and galleries to continue to support First Nations creatives through ongoing opportunities and exhibitions.

"Providing opportunities for younger artists is the biggest investment for the future ... not just in a career sense, also just support in maintaining that connection to culture and being able to fly the flag, and display that with the most pride that you possibly can," he said.

FIRST will be officially opening with a public event at Newcastle Museum from 6pm to 7.30pm tonight and will remain on display until Sunday 6 August. The free exhibition will be accompanied by an online portfolio where visitors can learn more about the artists and their work.

The First Nations creatives featured in the exhibition are Maree Bisby, Virginia McDonald, Shane Dixon, Adam Manning, Wanda Matthews, Wayde Clark (Aléjandro), Kachina Davidson, Gambirra Illume, Maria Tattersall, Jakeob Watson, Timothy Jackson (Timberlina), Ngaire Pakai, Shellie Smith, Jasmine Craciun, Wanjun Carpenter, and Jacob Cummins.


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