Published: 27 August 2015

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, in recent times we have heard much of the challenges facing the west coast of Tasmania in terms of mining closures and the tragic loss of life of three mine workers and the significant loss of employment.

These events have challenged this community in many ways and the negative impact on the community has been very real.  It is therefore perhaps even more important to acknowledge and note some of the really positive aspects of the west coast community beyond the grandeur of the mountains, forests, rivers and powerful ocean.

Over the last 10 years or so the west coast has become a significant arts and culture centre for Tasmania.  From the amazing and highly successful Queenstown Heritage and Arts Festival that is currently undergoing organisational and regional renewal, spearheaded by a reimagined three festival sequence titled The Unconformity, to the ongoing commitment to and involvement in the arts of renowned Australian printmaker Raymond Arnold and his partner Helena Demczuk.

Raymond and Helena have worked together at LARQ since it was established by Raymond in 2006.  LARQ is an acronym for Landscape Art Research Queenstown and was established as an artist residency program to foster Raymond's own art practice and to nurture that of others in response to the natural heritage values inherent in the remoteness and ruggedness of this rich historical region.  As a non-profit community development business fostering connections, a sense of place and artistic inventions LARQ hosts art exhibitions, workshops and artist residencies in Queenstown within the context of sometimes competing natural and cultural values.  They host top international exhibitions and artist residencies in a town that some may suggest would be the last place you would expect to find them.

I know that Raymond takes the view that community is important and heritage is crucial.  It has now come time for LARQ to be having its last LARQ.  In the decade between the setting up and the close of LARQ and imminent rebirth and its next iteration, LARQ has brought a focus to the western region through connections to community, cultural product and both the heritage and natural values inherent in the region.  Feedback and experience tells us that we are making some real progress.  There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the positive impact on health and wellbeing that exposure to, and engagement with, the arts has on individuals and communities.

LARQ has hosted eight funded international artist residencies, nine unfunded international residencies, 18 national and Tasmanian residencies, staged 41 exhibitions, managed 15 art workshops, mentored local artists and young students and welcomed many visitors to its gallery for exhibition openings, artists' talks, art industry nights and casual visits.

Raymond Arnold's work honours the endeavours of Henry Hellyer, colonial surveyor for  the VDL company, also William Piguenit, one of the first artists born in the colony and whose passion for romantic landscapes brought him to this wild area.  Raymond's work also engages with the sense of time and place seen in this connection, and the technical mastery evident in his etchings, prints and paintings.

His work is profound and infiltrates the psyche of the rugged isolated mining towns that he has established such a connection with.  By establishing the residency program at LARQ he has been able to share this wilderness and space with others.  The exhibition space within LARQ showcased some of the creative results of the programs and has changed the face of Queenstown into a vibrant and thoughtful community which appreciates the complexity of its past, present and future.

Raymond Arnold won the prestigious Glover Prize in 2007 and his achievement was shared by the town.  He has an open and inclusive personality and a reputation for high quality and rigorous practices.  The west coast is surely an artistic frontier, as LARQ is linking regional western Tasmania with the rest of the world.  Raymond has found a huge sense of purpose in his life in Queenstown where he can appreciate the beauty of the surrounding wilderness, and have the opportunity to connect with the environment in a unique and creative way.

He first came to Queenstown in the early 1980s when he participated in the blockade against damming the Gordon below Franklin.  After awakening to the beauty, history and philosophy of the landscape, he visited this region regularly to cycle, walk and paint.  I acknowledge and thank Raymond on behalf of all Tasmanians, particularly west coasters as we have all benefited enormously from his quiet, humble and inspirational presence in, and dedication to, Tasmania and particularly the west coast.

I wish Raymond and Helena all the very best on their next west coast venture as they bring another dream to life.  That dream is to develop a B, B&B, which is a bed and breakfast for bicycle tourists at Queenstown, and whatever other amazing things they decide to do.

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