about van


The Visual Arts Network was a three year Creative Industries Development project of Arts Northern Rivers. The project has now ended, however this website set up as part of the project continues to be an important promotional tool and long term outcome of the project. The VAN project was Coordinated by Melitta Firth, over a period of four years.


VAN was established to enable visual artists to reach beyond the region to access broad national and international markets; to make the business of being a visual artist viable; to provide professional development opportunities for visual artists; and to further the national and international profile of the Northern Rivers as a vibrant regional centre for the arts.

About us

Arts Northern Rivers Inc is a Regional Arts Board supported by Arts NSW and the seven local governments of the region - Ballina, Byron, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed.

Part of a network of thirteen Regional Arts Boards across regional NSW, Arts Northern Rivers is an incorporated not-for profit association which aims to:

  • Foster and promote the culture of the region;
  • Foster and encourage Indigenous arts and cultural programs and practices;
  • Promote the arts, and achievement in the arts, to enhance social and economic community development;
  • Encourage an increase in the level of cultural tourism.
For more information about Arts Northern Rivers visit the website: www.artsnorthernrivers.com.au

Key sponsors and partners

The VAN project was developed by Arts Northern Rivers in partnership with the NSW Department of State and Regional Development (DSRD) and supported through their Developing Regional Resources Program. Stage 1 of the project was also supported by Arts NSW, and the Australian Government's Regional Partnerships Program. Stage 2 of the project has been supported by Arts NSW, Visual Arts and Crafts Program and NSW DSRD's Developing Regional Resources Program. Stage 3 was supported by Arts NSW, Visual Arts and Craft Program.

Other sponsors include The Byron at Byron Resort Spa and Conference Centre, Byron Bay, Linnaeus Estate, Broken Head.

Background of the network

After consulting with members of the Northern Rivers visual arts community and analysing the results from the industry survey, the Visual Arts Network (VAN) developed a program of initiatives aimed at supporting visual artists and developing their marketing and business skills. VAN activities relate to three key areas or career pathways- commercial, public, and cross industry.

These key initiatives included:

  • a series of high profile visual arts Curatorial and Advisory Panels for artists;
  • public forums;
  • business development support and business skills workshops;
  • an industry linkage program featuring a series of exhibitions and networking events including Visual Arts Speed Dating-4-Artists;
  • audience development and marketing events and initiatives; and
  • a website which includes a curated virtual gallery, portal to gallery and artists sites and resources for artists.

To stay informed about visual arts activities in the region please subscribe to our E-News or contact us.

Industry Linkage Program

Over four years VAN organised a variety of specialised networking events designed to help artists access career opportunities and make market connections outside the region. This included innovative and groundbreaking aspects of the program such as Visual Arts SpeedDating-4-Artists and Curatorial Advisory Panels outlined below. This also encompasses group marketing initiatives with VAN partners such as commercial galleries nationally, AUSTRADE and Tourism NSW.

Curatorial panels

VAN Curatorial Advisory panels provided visual artists with an opportunity to have their work critically assessed by high profile curators and gallery directors from around Australia. This is not only an opportunity for artists to receive professional feedback and advice but is also a brilliant way to profile the diversity and excellence of visual arts in the Northern Riversí to prominent members of the Australian visual arts sector. Check out our virtual exhibition and meet the curators. The following people will participate on these panels:

  • Robert Bleakley, Collector, Founder of Sotheby’s Australia
  • Dr Gene Sherman, Director, Sherman Galleries, Sydney
  • Claire Armstrong, Editor, Art & Australia
  • Russell Storer, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
  • A representative from Roslyn Oxley Gallery
  • Lorraine Pilgrim, Curator, Schubert Galleries, Gold Coast
  • Nicholas Tsoutas, Executive Director, Artspace, Sydney
  • David Broker, Deputy Director, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
  • Tamara Winikoff, Executive Officer, NAVA
  • Jan Murphy, Director, Jan Murphy Gallery
  • Julie Ewington, Curator, Queensland Art Gallery
  • Steven Alderton, Director, Lismore Regional Gallery
  • Virginia Rigney, Curator, Public Programs, Gold Coast City Art Gallery
  • Angus McDonald, Australian Artist

Public forums

In addition, members of the curatorial panels delivered public forums while they visited the region aimed at examining contemporary visual arts practice within Australia and overseas, offering all visual artists in the Northern Rivers region direct access to the latest trends in their industry.

Workshop program

The VAN project delivered a workshop program open to all Northern Rivers visual artists developed to provide ‘hands-on’ opportunities for artists to create and take away resources that will assist them in developing and extending their businesses.

Some key workshops included:

  • Preparing Effective Funding Applications: a workshop aimed at exploring and demystifying the funding application process. The workshop will provide practical ‘take-away’ skills to assist artists in the funding application process.
  • Creative Product Development: developing your contemporary art and craft for a retail market. Covering how to identify market opportunities and how to develop a product for those markets
  • Images for Publicity 1 – Digital Photography of 2D Artwork: The first step in marketing visual art is having quality images available to show galleries, to put together a marketing package or display on the internet. This workshop will cover the basics of artwork photography and image manipulation.
  • Images for Publicity 2 – Create your own: A hands on sequel to Images for Publicity 1. In this workshops artists will produce a basic set of images for use in marketing applications: quality photographs of their work, high and low resolution versions, which they will take home on a CD. They will learn very basic Photoshop skills – resizing and adjusting images, and how to burn images onto a disk.
  • Marketing Materials: Constructed so as to provide practical advice and tangible resources, this workshop will assist artists to develop some key marketing materials to use in their dealings with commercial galleries. Artists will use templates to learn how to develop a biography, artist statement, press releases, media lists and mailing lists, and learn how to identify and capture information about their audience and use this information effectively.
  • Negotiating with commercial galleries: Covering questions such as: how does the commercial gallery world relate to the emerging artist, How to present your work to galleries and how best to achieve representation.
  • Finding your niche 1 in the national visual arts sector: The first of two workshops aimed at helping emerging artists identify where their work ‘fits’ within the Australian gallery system.Arts Law & Copyright – a workshop looking at issues of copyright, contractual law and artists rights and responsibilities.
  • Tax issues for visual artists: Explaining the basic tax requirements for operating a home based business and tax issues for visual artists.
  • Finding your niche 2 in the international visual arts sector
  • Selling on E-Bay
  • Roundtable discussion Expanding the canvas, where are the income opportunities for artists
  • Legal Issues for artists: Copyright, Licensing and moral rights
  • Expo’s and Export – how does it all work

Please make sure your contact details are on the Arts Northern Rivers Database so that we can keep you informed about upcoming events.