By Cherine Fahd
My home away from home is my studio space at Carriageworks North Eveleigh, Sydney.
The studio is in a beautiful old building called The Clothing Store. Since February 2019, I have shared this space with some of Australia’s most celebrated contemporary artists.
Carriageworks established the residency program in 2017 through a partnership with Urban Growth NSW (now Infrastructure NSW), giving artists subsidised spaces in central Sydney to work.
But the studio offers far more than real estate. It gives us a unique communal experience that is closely connected to the cultural life of Carriageworks.
My affiliation with Carriageworks began long ago. Like many Sydneysiders, I have been a regular visitor since its inception in 2007.
I am often there to experience the more quirky events that rarely find a home in other venues in Sydney.
It is where I go to be with my children, to cultivate our familial connection beyond Netflix, to incorporate art, music and dance into our being together and to open their eyes to the wonders of all types of bodies in movement, the art of noise, and the unimaginable ways we can make the world together.
It is where I go to connect with Queer Sydney, to be myself in all my indefinable glory.
I take my students there to offer them a real-world classroom that immerses their imagination, presenting tactile hybrid forms of visual art, politics, technology and science.
I particularly love visiting the Saturday farmers’ markets, to sit anonymously in the sun surrounded by children on scooters, dogs on leads, milk crates and the smell of sausages, flowers and miso soup. To watch people from all over Sydney learn pickling, to cook and to taste wine.
Carriageworks is not a conventional gallery or museum. It is a multi-arts centre and a creative community, a place where people come to be together to feel like they are part of something big but also unique.
The National biennial of contemporary art, Sydney Festival, Mardi Gras, Sydney Writers’ Festival, Fashion Week, Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Contemporary Art Fair and Vivid are just some of the big events Carriageworks hosts.
Carriageworks is home to young Aboriginal people through Solid Ground, an initiative in conjunction with Blacktown Arts Centre that provides pathways through education, training and employment for Indigenous youth in Redfern, Waterloo and Blacktown.
It is home to much-loved resident companies like Sydney Chamber Opera and Force Majeure, Performance Space and unique Indigenous companies such as Marrugeku and Moogahlin Performing Arts.
Carriageworks contributes to the renewal of urban space in Redfern by commissioning the South Eveleigh Public Art initiative, enriching local public spaces. Carriageworks established New Normal, a national strategy for the development of disability arts practice with Back to Back Theatre and Studio A.
The list goes on.
For six weeks, the Sydney arts sector has eagerly awaited news from the New South Wales government, hoping an announcement might be made in support of the institutions that support us.
Instead, we have seen Arts Minister Don Harwin quit after breaching coronavirus travel restrictions. With no replacement minister, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has taken on the job but remains ominously silent on the arts.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I, like thousands of artists from all disciplines across the country, have had long-term projects and events cancelled or postponed indefinitely.
Ironically, the project I have laboured over in my Carriageworks studio for the past 15 months is a live performance of public intimacy and of all things un-COVID – touching.
Called Ecdysis, the project was jointly commissioned by Carriageworks and Performance Space for the Liveworks Experimental Art Festival, which was scheduled for October.
With touching out of bounds, the project is unlikely to go ahead.
Post-COVID, more than ever, we will need places where we can go to recover ourselves, to remember what it feels like to be together: to be touched emotionally, to be moved creatively and to be roused intellectually and physically.
Art is reparative. It brings people together, reminding us of our shared humanity and our long history on this planet together.
When social distancing is but a distant memory, Carriageworks, my home away from home, is where I want to be. I want you to look for me ready to perform Ecdysis, standing in the public gallery, all dressed in black.
I’ll invite you to dress in a blue coat, to sit down and let me wrap my arms around you, touching you ever so tenderly but tightly all the same.
Article originally published in The Conversation 6 May 2020.