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Rosie Dennis: Curating the Gold Coast’s cultural future

Dominica Czaczka | July 3, 2021

Creativity takes courage.


For Rosie Dennis, it’s a theme that has resonated with her early on in her artistic career and it’s one she’s continued to channel in her current role as Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director of Placemakers* Gold Coast.

Dennis recalls working for a theatre company two decades ago where she quickly discovered other artists were relentless in the pursuit of their craft.

“I couldn’t believe that all these other artists were ringing up and asking for things and I had never asked for anything. I thought that if I asked for something, that I needed say a space, they might say no.

“When I saw and heard other people ringing up, I thought ‘oh f*ck, pick up the phone Rosie you’ve got nothing to lose’. So that’s pretty much the mode I roll today. You’ve got nothing to lose, just go for it,” Dennis shrugs.

With an artistic career steeped heavily in site-based practice, Dennis leaped at the chance take the helm of the Gold Coast’s premiere arts festival, Bleach*, a cultural celebration featuring large-scale exhibits, cabaret, dance, live music and thought-provoking performances. Dennis quickly found herself packing up her life in Sydney and relocating her family north.

“One of the really exciting things about Bleach* Festival is that we play against a fairly extraordinary natural landscape.

“When you’re looking around the city and think ‘where can arts and culture play’, for us the city is the backdrop, the city is the set, the city sets the scene.

“It’s partly the culture of the Gold Coast; it’s very entrepreneurial in its mindset and spirit. That makes sense for me that there is that type of energy for arts and culture industry as well,” muses Dennis.

While the move provided an opportunity to carve out the Gold Coast’s creative identity, Dennis admits she was faced with unfounded criticisms from her creative peers.

“When I let people know I was taking the job on the Gold Coast there was lots of different comments from peers in Sydney.

“I think people were pretty surprised actually. And that largely has got to do with people’s incorrect perception of the Gold Coast as a place.

“But that’s exactly the reason I was excited to come up here. Because arts and culture plays a valuable and vital role in shifting perception,” explains Dennis.

Determined to prove the critics wrong, Dennis invites those that have not experienced the Gold Coast’s cultural revolution to come by for a closer look.

“There is a stigma attached to the Gold Coast. I was at a conference last year in Melbourne and there was a shout-out to Placemakers* and just the tone – you can pick it up – in the presenter’s voice, the tone that it was Rosie Dennis from the Gold Coast; somehow that little bit less than Sydney or Melbourne. That there’s a cultural deficit up here or maybe not as broad of a cultural palate.

“I want those types of critics to come up and see what we’re doing up here. People just need to come up here and see the Gold Coast is different,” declares Dennis.