IF YOU WEREN’T AWARE, SIMONE IS ONE OF THE MOST DYNAMIC NOVOCASTRIANS AROUND, WHICH IS A REAL SHAME BECAUSE SHE IS ABOUT TO LEAVE US ALL FOR THE BIG SMOKE. SHE HAS HAD A HUGE EFFECT ON THE SUCCESS OF MIRAGE AND MANY MORE AMAZING PROJECTS, ONE DAY WE IMAGINE SHE IS GOING TO HAVE A MURAL DEDICATED TO HER ON THE TOWN HALL. IT’S A CELEBRATION!
By Kian West
Photo Credit: Nicholas Pitt
1. So Simone, tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am going through a huge life change right now, it is a funny time to answer such a question, as I am going through an existential crisis of sorts. Big things! I love DIY arts (like graffiti and, yes, street art) and I have a penchant for empty spaces (walls, buildings, green spaces, parking lots). I have been running a creative business called Street Art Walking (SAW) since 2011. I like to bring clever people together, to celebrate their talent, whilst brightening our public spaces.
I am obsessed with Detroit after visiting Michigan in 2013 for a global placemaking event. I completed a Bachelor of Fine Art (Hons) at University of Newcastle in 2010. I love one-off's and analogue technology and that is why the Polaroid photograph is my favourite medium. As an artist, I am very inspired to pursue some ideas I have been thinking on since being in Motor City.
2. As the This Is Not Art Director, what is your role in the Festival?
Well, this year I am actually a Co-Director with Sarah Thrift. This will be the third year that I have worked on TiNA (Sarah too!), as I ran the festival in 2010, came back as a contractor last year to fill-in as Director and have been co-directing with Sarah since last year. It has been great to juggle the tasks of running TiNA with another person as there is just so much work to do!
We work with the TiNA Festivals to combine the many different events into one cohesive festival (or we try to!). Part of the idea is that you get kind of overwhelmed by all the goodness and keel over with excitement. Then you will probably meet someone who will impact your life in all the right ways. The role is so diverse and the request can sometimes be uncanny!
Essentially we are the glue that binds all of the TiNA Festivals together with Octapod. We meet monthly and email daily with the TiNA Festivals about the programs they want to present and then we stitch the events together so that they have venues, equipment and promotion in Newcastle. This year I have worked closely with the Creative Partnerships Australia MATCH Program projects, which has been an honour to see projects reach their crowd funding goals and have further support matched by the federal government.
I have also sought funding from Newcastle Panthers and The City of Newcastle's Pride of Place Program to produce a large mural as a visual arts project. Our festival is named after a graffiti tag on the Former Latec House, so I felt it fitting to have a seventy metre mural painted by a team of graffiti artists. A kind of homage to TiNA and it's impact on Newcastle streets.
I could probably write a thesis on the work involved with TiNA. Once, I even had to source ten bean bags in less that 12 hours during the festival. The tasks are sometimes endless but always worth smiling about.
And When you aren’t Directing a Festival, How do you spend most weeks?
Ha. I run around like crazy trying to see everything and support all the talented people I know. In the last year, I have really invested my social time into the local hip hop scene. I needed a new outlet that was still creative. It has been great to meet so many new friends and colleagues. I really feel I found a nice family with that scene here in Newcastle.
I like taking photos. And yes, only with my phone. I need to. I go for long walks to clear my head and I try to capture the overlooked scenes. I have a thing for plants that grow out of buildings, so I walk around try to find ferns falling out of facades.
Recently, I met someone special who is super talented and a wonderful creative human being. I am looking forward to the creative adventures and life ahead. After helping many their produce their art for the past seven years, I am so eager to make some of my own now!
3. We heard a rumour you have a new job and a new adventure… tell us a little bit about this exciting news?
Yes! I have am now the Community and Business Engagement Officer for Burwood Council. This is very exciting for me as career progression prospects were somewhat dwindling in Newcastle. This role solidifies my skill sets really well as I have been a sole trader working in the community domain for the past four years. I have been actively working alongside local council and state government as a provider of services for many years, this role is a chance for me to really grow in my career towards working for the wider community, not just the arts or creative sector.
Don't panic though! The role is part-time, so I will still have time to get involved with artist-run initiatives and DIY projects. I cannot say too much but I will tell you that on my "day's off" I will be "working" in one of the coolest co-working hubs in the Inner West! Street Art Walking will evolve and adapt, like it always has! There are still many inspired ideas and with moving to Sydney, more opportunity to see them live!
4. Did you grow up in Newcastle or was it magnetism?
I was drawn to Newcastle via my best friend Jenna Blayden. Jenna and I met in Mudgee after we had both finished our HSC. I had already tried Sydney, but it wasn't for me, at that time. So I ended up back in my hometown of Mudgee wondering where I was supposed to be.. Jenna and I met and the rest is history. I am lucky that Jenna was coming here to study music, as I had no clue what I wanted. I ended up doing Open Foundation (as I got a poor UAI after being a rebellious teen) and my HD results all pointed to studying Fine Art. I, honestly, was scared to even go down that path. I didn't want to be a struggling artist. Well, apparently I am a struggling Arts Administrator.
5. The crazy thing about this little zine is that most people won’t get to read this article until TINA has already happened since it is on the long weekend at the beginning of the month. For everyone reading now that have missed out, who or what would you recommend them looking up or checking out after it is all over? Or alternatively, where should Novocastrians being looking regularly?
Please go to the mural on the Newcastle Panthers (facing King Street) and have a peep. Even share a photo with me (@streetartwalking). That would make my day :)
6. Anything else people should know about yourself?
I am running my own crowd source campaign to seek support for my work as a self employed creative person. Here is the link. It would mean a great deal to see the community I have championed for get behind me on my creative adventure.