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Designing a First Nations Festival Space

How Casey Coolwell-Fisher’s artwork transformed QPAC during Clancestry

2 min read

As part of QPAC’s commitment to reconciliation with our First Nations people, we continually look to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures together to make meaningful connections.

An embodiment of this was during QPAC’s Clancestry – A Celebration of Country, when Nunukul artist of the Quandamooka people from Minjerribah Casey Coolwell-Fisher led the on-site festival design with the mentorship of award-winning production designer Josh McIntosh.

With a background in graphic design, and following a few smaller commissions with QPAC including for Clancestry in 2019 and the free QPAC Tunnel Exhibition Unearthed, Coolwell-Fisher was charged with creating a warm, welcoming and recognisable First Nations space for Clancestry for six years.

Coolwell-Fisher’s final artwork for Clancestry was a beautiful and intricate graphic that represented First Nations people coming together and sharing their stories, just like the combinations and storytelling of our natural elements.

Clancestry 2022The Melbourne Street Green. Photo by Tai Bobongie.

“The mix of our trees and leaves are represented in the leaf elements, sand and dirt in the dot work, water in the swirled lines and the mountains/hills in the combination of everything,” says Coolwell-Fisher.

On collaborating with McIntosh and how her digital work was lifted to Clancestry’s physical spaces, Coolwell-Fisher says:

“Josh was able to take my digital art pieces and create conceptual layouts for us to check out, make changes and come up with something deadly!”

Clancestry 2022Our Backyard on the Melbourne Street Green. Photo by Tai Bobongie.

McIntosh credited Coolwell-Fisher’s vivid and clean artwork for drawing people into the festival spaces.

“Casey’s really beautiful and complex graphics incorporated leaf and water designs, with textural elements like sand, which we then could use different pallet versions of in all sorts of ways to help add a real sense of colour and sense of place,” says McIntosh.

“What we did early on was designate different geographical locales for difference spaces in the building – so we had an ice and water theme in the Concert Hall, a rainforest theme in the Cremorne, and wattle and desert tones on the Melbourne Street Green.”

Clancestry 2022Aunty Sonja Carmichael holds a workshop in front of Coolwell-Fisher’s artwork in the QPAC foyer. Photo by Tai Bobongie.

Both designers are all for creating more pathways for First Nations artists in the industry. With a such a lack of local theatre designers to start with McIntosh says:

“It’s so important everybody has a voice, and to have somebody like Casey who’s contributing in such a big way to this festival was fantastic – there’s an amazing ripple effect as her work had such a huge visual impact on this area.”

Coolwell-Fisher adds:

“It's important, as we get to see the different side and aspects of setting up a gig and dealing with different operations is really an eye opening.

“Giving our people this opportunity is important, as it gives us creative inspiration for our future projects.”

QPAC First Nations

Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We pay our respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors of this land, their spirits and their legacy. The foundations laid by these ancestors – our First Nations Peoples – gives strength, inspiration and courage to current and future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, towards creating a better Queensland.