Best Arts Program

Curating projects in a way that preserves individual artistic vision but also adds power to its message by rendering it part of a whole, takes creativity and a deft touch. Each of these nominees’ curatorial efforts have challenged, immersed and delighted us in 2023; yielding programs that became greater than the sum of their parts. Which made its mark for you?

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SWANA Film Festival

A community-run event which presented the next generation of filmmakers, curators, and storytellers, the SWANA Film Festival at Riverside Theatre Parramatta showcased new cinema from the South West Asian and Northern African Region. In the words of festival director Hajer Al-Awsi while speaking on Race Matters: “I want people to be open to learning [but] it’s also there for fun. The region has been through a lot of tragedy and a lot of films highlight this, but we also wanted to bring joy to the community.” Boasting several Australian-premieres, films from countries including Armenia, Iraq, Syria, Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, The Emirates, Syria, and also from within diaspora in this country, SWANA Film Festival exemplifies the importance of having people tell their stories on their own terms.

Photo courtesy of nominee


A film festival inspired by Black radical cinema, SWARM was a collaborative project undertaken by Jen Atherton and André Shannon of creative film partnership Garden Reflexxx, Gi De Lacy and Xuela to bring a night of film to community within this city as part of Sydney WorldPride. Taking place at the retro Skyline Drive-In in Blacktown, followed by a further afternoon of screenings and a panel discussion at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, SWARM presented a range of work by artists as varied as iconic US lesbian filmmaker Cheryl Dunye, First Nations legend of film and art Tracey Moffatt, Sydney-based hero Bhenji Ra, and beloved Yuin musician e fishpool, alongside countless other filmmakers from across the globe. In a lively carpark of car-horn applause, SWARM was a testament to the powerful variety of film culture from this country and throughout the world.

Image courtesy of nominee


Dither_, a free app of calendar listings and as much possible information about Sydney visual arts events, is the brainchild of founder Thomas Kusturin: an artist, arts worker, curator, arts teacher, arts writer, and recent NAS graduate. Currently an app and soon to be a website too, Kusturin speculates “if the arts are going to bring people together, generate conversation, challenge beliefs, expand our imaginations and the potential futures that they hold, then we need a space with the creative agents our city provides.” That space now exists, and it is Dither_.

Photo courtesy of nominee

Club Chrome: Fxckery

For years, Club Chrome, LGBTQIA+ pole dance collective, have actively platformed queer Black, Indigenous and PoC artists and queer sex workers. Fxckery saw the collective explore honest depictions of sexuality and sex work, interrogating the relationships of gender, sexuality, art and community. Staged at PACT Centre for Emerging Artists in March as part of Mardi Gras, Fxckery is a piece of serious contemporary dance that doesn’t gloss over the lived realities and skills involved in pole dancing.

Photo: Alexandre Dubois (Faint Agency)

Carriageworks Nights

Amongst their grand, industrial halls, Carriageworks commissioned a series of events – Carriageworks Nights – where artists were given the opportunity to transform the space for a night, curating events full with installation, performance, music, film, and food. Across ten events from Jazz Money and Jason Phu’s school-carnival-like “Silly Silly Party”, EO Gill’s sexy, queer “Softcore” movie night, and The Bushy Lemons’ teaming up with bloodwood chef and owner Claire Van Vuuren’s BBQ party “Feast”, Carriageworks Nights were a totally free series of celebrations, providing countless Black, Indigenous, PoC, and queer artists to shake up the stoic formality of traditional art events, instead creating something much more inclusive, truthful, and fun.

Photo courtesy of nominee

Art Gallery of NSW: MONUMENTAL (working title)

Even in its name, MONUMENTAL (working title) exemplifies a program that is both immense, yet open to always becoming more. Curated by esteemed Sydney-based performers Latai Taumoepeau and Brian Fuata and produced with Intimate Spectacle, this vast project worked within the gallery, challenging its institutional, hegemonic claims to knowledge. MONUMENTAL (working title) took a broadly encompassing approach to live work, seeing everything from the grand in Strings Attached suspended and crawling over the building’s exterior, to the celebratory staunch of House of Slé ballroom dancing in total silence, to the alien with the disembodied ghost of Angela Goh, to the extremely subtle with Julie-Anne Long roaming through the gallery as an overlooked, middle-aged cleaner. A totally free series including work by sixteen artists and collectives, MONUMENTAL (working title) displays in full force the power of live art in this city, and its power to make us rethink the institutional structures around us.

Photo: AGNSW, Mim Stirling