Words: Luke Létourneau
In September 2021, Narangga and Kaurna artist Jacob Boehme was announced as the director, First Nations Programs, in a newly created role within Sydney’s Carriageworks. The role will focus on the development of First Nations artistic programs and cultural strategies for this nationally significant arts organisation.
Across his 20-plus year career, Boehme has been a teacher, performer, choreographer, writer, producer and artistic director. He was the founding creative director of Yirramboi Festival, a First Nations arts festival which continues to activate Melbourne biennially with free and low-cost arts programming. He also continues as the artistic director for the Wild Dog, a multi-year cultural maintenance project aiming to share, preserve and maintain Dingo storylines, which was presented as an exhibition for the Tarnanthi festival at the Art Gallery of South Australia.
I spoke to Boehme six weeks into his new role, and he was as enthusiastic as he is ambitious for the opportunity to work for an organisation of the size and calibre of Carriageworks. In our discussion, Boehme made a point to touch on the sector-wide discussions we’ve all been having regarding inclusive programming in response to the onset of the Black Lives Matter movement. Boehme was conscious that these discussions on what needs to be done differently and who needs to be at the decision-making table can’t lose their steam as our arts organisations open back up after extended closure periods and return to regular programming.
Boehme is committed to First Nations values being central to how he develops, commissions and tours programs. His programming for 2022 will be in dialogue with the 50th anniversaries of the founding of the National Black Theatre and Aboriginal Tent Embassy, as a way of honouring the beginnings of the modern political movement and contemporary theatre sector borne out of these communities.
Carriageworks has gone through its own upheaval, starting with entering voluntary administration in 2020, and so it is encouraging to see the creation of the director, First Nations Programs role, and Boehme’s vison for it, inform how this organisation takes on its new shape and form.
Featured image: Jacob Boehme performing Blood on the Dance Floor at Arts House, Melbourne, 2016. Photo: Bryony Jackson. Courtesy: the artist and Arts House, Melbourne.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 99, January-March 2022.