Rebecca Ross, co-director, The Walls Art Space

Have fun in the world’s playground ...

Founder and co-director of The Walls Art Space in Miami, Rebecca Ross is an award-winning artist, a renowned curator and former Miami High School graduate. She recently caught up with The Weekend Edition Gold Coast, before she set off on a research trip to Tasmania, to talk about an upcoming fundraiser, her vision for the space and Pope Francis.

What inspires you?
Where I live by the beach in Burleigh. Making things happen. Unchartered territory. Combinations of colours, patterns and ideas. Life process. Working with, meeting and talking to like-minded people. Art. Artists. Good coffee. Being outdoors. Floating in the Coral Sea. Endless conversations. Laughing.

Can you share with us your vision for The Walls Art Space?
My vision for the space is to support artists to make new work and to continue to create professional opportunities for artists. To further engage the community and host projects that reflect on our way of life and inspire new ideas about our place in the world. To become sustainable by cultivating philanthropic and corporate relationships that value innovation and the arts that will help us achieve our aims. To make a significant contribution to the artistic landscape of the Gold Coast and beyond.

You have previously referred to your installations as ‘exercises in mapping’. What you mean by that?
All of my work deals with ideas and actions related to maps and mapping. It’s a way of relating to, questioning and attempting to understand the world. I use actual maps, technology, my body and a myriad of materials to track and trace my artistic trajectories and enquiries.

You’ve held residencies in galleries around the world but you’ve always regarded the Gold Coast as home. What is it that you love so much about the city?
Lifestyle, pace, its many varied facets of old and new, natural and manmade, luxury and local. I like the way the people interact with and change the landscape by being outdoors and doing things like surfing. I love the climate, the beach and the head space.

Can you tell us about Keep The Walls Up?
Keep The Walls Up is an event on Saturday January 24 to fund our 2015 artistic program. There’ll be artists performing, a film-clip set built in the space and some contemporary artworks to win! It’s also a chance for us to connect with more people in our community and to have a fun afternoon with art, sound and visual fanfare, and hopefully raise enough money to keep The Walls up and running so that we can continue to present exceptional shows and innovative artworks, and support local artists as well as artists with an interest and connection to the Gold Coast.

What are your essentials for a well-spent weekend?
An opening night at The Walls with artists, friends, family and community. Waking up early to go walking and swimming. Typically involves coffee, wine, a visit to the farmers market, a good feed and some time on the sand and in the water.

What originally drew you to art (pardon the pun)?
I was always making things, drawing, sewing and collaging as a kid and I never doubted that I would have a career as a creative. Miami High School had a really varied art program and by Year Ten I knew I’d be heading for art school. Art is my life and more and more my life becomes art as the processes for both are really one and the same.

You’ve achieved so much in your career, what do you regard as your greatest success?
The Walls has been a long-term goal spanning about a decade – I have always looked at empty spaces and had visions of setting up a space and it all happened eventually when the time and place was right. The first year was really successful so it’s onward and upward from here. Being awarded the Australia Council Rome Studio was a big achievement and a coveted award nationally. It was always my dream to spend a period of time in Rome looking at art, studying and researching; it was a very memorable, inspiring and satisfying three months.

Do you have any advice for your teenage self?
Trust yourself, stay focused and balanced, you can do it! Be patient, have fun in the world’s playground, take time to celebrate your achievements, love yourself.

If you could host a dinner party and invite anyone in the world, living or otherwise, who would you invite?
David Walsh (Owner and Director of MONA in Tasmania), Pope Francis (I’m not religious but I think he’d be pretty interesting to talk to and he has exclusive access to the Sistine Chapel and all the Vatican artworks), and Italian artist Alighiero Boetti. I’d give anything to meet him in Piazza del Popolo in Rome to talk about art.

How would you rate the creative pulse on the Gold Coast right now?
I think our creative heart is beating a little bit faster but there’s heaps of room to create a greater awareness of contemporary culture. It’s disappointing to see opportunities like the light rail that could be landmark artistic features in the Gold Coast landscape lost to advertising.

Can you tell us what exciting things might be in store for The Walls in 2015?
We’re starting the year with a solo show called Mix Tape by artist Lucas Abela who will be coming to us after a series of performances at MONA’s MOFO festival in Tasmania. Lucas is well known internationally and, like me, is a graduate of Miami High. The show will be interactive, immersive and it looks pretty fun! It opens on February 21. We will also be launching our Artist in Residence program in February with artist Hannah Smith as our first artist in resident. In March, I am co-curating a group show called Subject Line which will exhibit works by three emerging Gold Coast artists. Following that we will host monthly exhibitions until December, and monthly events in the form of artist talks, screenings, performances and workshops.

If you could have one wish for the coast, what would it be?
That our reputation as a destination for art becomes as great as a reputation for world-class point breaks. That tourism expands to people who visit us for cultural attractions as much as they do theme parks. For us to build the capacity and infrastructure to grow our creative capital on a local, national and international level. Also, that the Gold Coast Suns win a premiership!

Only a Gold Coast local would know … that Burleigh Point is the place to be on a Sunday afternoon for a picnic, some people watching and a cold beer under the Norfolk pines.

Perk up … Coffee at the Nook at Burleigh Point.
Relax … Take a walk through Burleigh Headland National Park and have a swim at the point.
Dine … This time of year it’s not really dining but barbecuing that I enjoy most.
Indulge … Thai massage.
Be inspired … I guess that’s why I started The Walls so that I could work directly with artists and be inspired by their ideas. I really like heading down to Dust Temple in Currumbin also.

Image Credit: Jolie Clifford.


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