BALLARAT is a hotbed of creativity. It has been since the First Nations peoples occupied the land. And as local arts activist Tara Poole affirms, it is thanks to the crafts of the Wadawarrung peoples that the creative essence of the city lives on today. “(These crafts) are now being reimagined and the skills recaptured,” Tara says. “With the arrival of Europeans and the burgeoning of the goldfields, we saw the arrival of crafts, arts and trades.
“In more recent times, Ballarat has played host to a vital and energetically artistic university and tertiary educational sites which, in turn, created schools of painters, ceramicists, theatrical performers and musicians amongst many others. “Today we are the home of composers, actors, painters, poets, producers, writers and more – and we need more of them in order to keep our creative heart beating.”
It’s evident that Tara’s passion lies in the creative space. And while she doesn’t identify as an artist herself, she acknowledges and whole-heartedly appreciates the vital contribution of art and creativity to the cultural landscape of a city. “I wish I had the patience and skill to be a true artist – but I don’t. However, I do have the skills and abilities to help other people realise their creative capacities,” she says.
And so she does – through the various hats she wears in Ballarat and beyond. Tara and her partner Stephen Pigott are the owners of The Lost Ones Contemporary Art Gallery. Housed in an elusive yet majestic 19th century Masonic Hall, the space is renowned across the region for supporting established and emerging artists working across a range of mediums. But it’s not only the art that makes this place worth writing home about. Visiting The Lost Ones will always bring with it an element of surprise and you only have to venture downstairs to the Basement Bar to experience this. From the taxidermy workshops to the jazz musicians on stage, the whiskey tasting soirees to the indulgent cheese platters, you never know what brilliance awaits.
Tara and Stephen purchased the hall after being struck by its sheer potential. “The idea of bringing the whole building to life became a passion, and to do something with it that you simply couldn’t experience anywhere else – I loved that idea, and still do,” Tara says. “We want people to feel themselves (when they enter the space). I am so relieved when people visit and say how at ease they feel, how un-judged they are. We’re not trying to be something we’re not, and we’re certainly not trying to emulate anyone. It’s a place where you can find something different, unusual and challenging – but at the same time you feel right at home. It’s the perfect way to learn and be open to new experiences.”
Tara is also the City of Ballarat’s Creative City Coordinator, a role which may as well have been produced especially for her. The position sees her scoping out new creative programs to bring to Ballarat while overseeing the public art program, installing permanent and temporary works across the city, and implementing the recently approved Creative City Strategy. In other words, she’s the one responsible for harnessing the city’s creative potential in a bid to bring it to life. No pressure.
Lucky for Ballarat, Tara knows that creativity is not only the bedrock for growth, but is the secret to maintaining a strong and healthy community.
“Art and creativity means new and exciting ideas, it means grabbing opportunities and having the courage to simply say ‘yes’ to things. It is art and creativity that will help deliver a powerful voice of difference for Ballarat, and encourage people to live, work and play here,” she says.