Arts festival fanfare

The annual Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival celebrations have wrapped up for another year, a fun-filled weekend which attracted people from near and far to celebrate the arts.

People flocked to the region to immerse themselves in art, wine, food and music with exhibitions, workshops, performances and kids entertainment galore.

This was a special year for the festival, as it celebrated the 30th anniversary of the festival and the 150th year of Penola-born poet John Shaw Neilson’s life.

The major event is organised by a small but dedicated team and Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival volunteer Katie Moorhouse said if she had to describe the festival this year in one word, it would be “vibrant”.

The official opening on Thursday night at Penola High School saw several prize winners announced, including the John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize of $12,000, generously sponsored by The Balnaves Foundation.

Dagny Strand won the JSN Acquisitive Art Prize with her artwork ‘The Woman of the Forest’, inspired by Mr Neilson’s poem ‘The Woman of the Forest’.

Her piece was described as a ‘potent yet majestic work’ which was a ‘carefully considered, jewel-like work of painting and assemblage’ with supremely confident paintwork.

Stella Scanlon was the JSN Local Prize Winner of $1000, sponsored by Lois Hodge, with her piece ‘My Smiling Queens’, inspired by the poem ‘The Land Where I Was Born’.

Ms Scanlon also took home the Packers Prize voucher sponsored by Framing Solutions.

The winners of the JSN Highly Commended Prize sponsored by Penola High School were Lorna Beagan, Rod Bax, Narelle Smith and Hamish and the winner of the $1000 Design Prize sponsored by Hansen Print was Natania Hollingsworth.

Ms Moorhouse said the Co-Opera afterwards in Rymill Hall was very well-received, with the premiere performance of one act comic opera ‘Gianni Schicchi’ by Giacomo Puccini.

Saturday began with a Gunfire Breakfast and opening of the ‘Animals in Wartime’ exhibition at the Coonawarra Penola RSL.

Many buskers showcased their talents on the streets throughout the weekend and people jumped on the mics at the Royal Oak Hotel Open Mic Competition on Sunday.

People got creative at various workshops, including Michelle Lee’s ‘Journey: Intuitive Art and Earrings’ and ‘Paint a Sly Fox’ with Cindy Cross at Parker Coonawarra Estate amongst Sarah Cunningham’s ‘A Single Detail’ photographic exhibition.

Everyone was spoilt for choice with exhibitions such as Fiona Lodewyk’s ‘Recycled Treasures’ at Leconfield Coonawarra, Lino Cuts by Vida Pearson at Chardonnay Lodge and ‘Incredible Recycled Metalwork Sculptures’ by Liz Goossens at Patrick of Coonawarra.

At Zema Estate, people enjoyed Mrs Zema’s pasta and arancini for lunch and journeyed through time with an interactive exhibition of 40 years of Zema.

Rita DiGiorgio cooked up her lamb pizzaiola at DiGiorgio’s ‘Wine + Food + Art’ event with Jojo Spook’s artworks featured in the garden and a workshop on Sunday.

A great variety of second-hand artwork was up for sale at Bowen Estate’s ‘As You Liked it,’ which also created an eclectic exhibition.

Shenanigans got everyone up and dancing on Saturday night, with performances from grass-roots bands including Archer, The Cart Wheels and friends and food by Pipers of Penola.

“Shenanigans is always a success, just a great night that sets the scene for the festival,” Ms Moorhouse said.

Ms Moorhouse said the sold-out literary brunch on Sunday at Ottelia was “fantastic”, which involved producer Nick Batzias, director Justin Kurzel and author Jock Serong.

“They gave a really good insight into the creative processes, everyone was really enthralled with it,” she said.

The ‘Kids’ p-ART-y’ at Mary MacKillop Memorial School was off to a sweet start when the giant 30th birthday cake was cut.

Circus acts, face painting, food and drink stalls by local schools and plenty of activities kept kids entertained all day despite a bit of rainy weather.

Next door in Petticoat Lane, many people wandered ‘Down the Lane’ to enjoy fine food and beverages, market stalls and live music and the LCFG Farmers and Makers Market sold handmade goods.

Ms Moorhouse said after holding back on big-ticket items last year due to uncertainty with COVID, it was good to incorporate these into the program again this year.

“It was really good, there was something for everyone really,” she said.

“I think absolutely across the board, for the environment that we’re currently in and coming out of, we thought there may be a little bit of resistance in coming out publicly, but certainly people are happy to be out and about.

“Everyone was really ready to get out there and celebrate the festival and the community and see each other and reconnect and celebrate what’s good about our town and region.

“It’s always great to see the community from the Penola and Coonawarra and beyond.”

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