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Nude drawings irk festival

Arts Centre
A photo collage showcasing the life drawing exhibition at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre.

As the Festival of the Performing Arts (FOPA) opened its three weeks of music competition this week, parents and teachers of junior pianists – some as young as five – were dismayed to find that the piano sessions at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre coincided with a scheduled exhibition by the Life Drawing group.

The walls of the Arts Centre’s gallery were covered abundantly with nude portraits of men and women, as a result of sketches using a live model that had been made during the drawing group’s many sessions. The festival had booked the room with no idea of the concurrent exhibition, said FOPA president Barbara Lightfoot. On festival opening day, April 9, approximately 35 children passed through the centre to give their brief performances. 

“I think it is completely inappropriate,” Lightfoot said. “It was unfortunate that the gallery was not more sensitive about the display at this time.” She added that some upset parents had already written letters of complaint.

When Lightfoot first entered the Arts Centre to prepare for the festival, she asked whether the drawings would be on show during the performances and she was told that they would stay. 

The festival’s past president, Sue Carson, pointed out in a letter to the directors of the Sunshine Coast Arts Council (SCAC) that children’s art or secondary school art, both of which have held exhibits during the spring, would be more appropriate for the age groups at the festival, who are usually between the ages of five and 18.

Carson noted that the festival has been held over the same weeks in April for the past 45 years so there could be no doubt about what exhibition to schedule for that period. 

In a written response to Coast Reporter, SCAC co-chair Nell Burns acknowledged that traditionally the Young People’s Own Show has been in the gallery when the festival takes place.

“Last year we decided to move that show to February,” Burns said. “I wrote and spoke to the festival organizers last year to let them know that the gallery would not be as available as we would now be exhibiting adult artists, which might not be appropriate work. The SCAC gallery committee put together the exhibition calendar unaware of dates for the festival. However, this would not likely have changed the dates for this exhibition as it was the only time slot available.”

She added, “We provide the gallery rent-free to the festival during the days they are using it. At this point, we cannot remove the work.”

The festival is scheduled to return to the Arts Centre on April 16 and 17.