Many people who are interested in Aboriginal art would like the opportunity to meet an artist and to talk about their work. Seeing artists at work and meeting and speaking to them about their culture is an unforgettable experience and for many people it is a highlight of their visit to more remote parts of Australia.
One of the best ways to do this is to visit an Aboriginal community art centre or else to take a specialized Aboriginal art tour. While organized tours are usually more expensive than independent travel, they have the considerable advantage that you are taken into the artists’ community by a guide with established relations with the artists and their centre and who is able to explain, and in some cases interpret, when talking to artists who may have limited English (which is often their second or third language).
Visiting Aboriginal community art centres
Many community art centres welcome visitors. However centres are often very remote and have 4WD access only, and at most communities accommodation is not available and you cannot stay overnight. You will need to come equipped and self sufficient in food and shelter (camping).
Centres are usually closed on weekends except by prior arrangement and may also be closed for community activities or unforeseen circumstances. For these reasons it is recommended that you contact the manager of any art centre and make an appointment before visiting it.
Art centre managers can also advise whether access permits are needed - permits to enter remote communities on Aboriginal land are often required. Processing permits can take up to three weeks (but can be much quicker). The individual art centre will give contact details for permit applications.
Contact details for art centres in central and northern Australia are available through the Desart Web site or at www.aboriginlart.org .
Specialized Aboriginal art tours
Palya Art Tours works with art centres and Community Councils across northern and central Australia. Tours are led by Helen Read who has worked with Aboriginal communities for more than 20 years. The tours offer the opportunity to meet Traditional Owners and artists in a mutually respectful environment. Small groups travel by professionally maintained and piloted light aircraft and 4WD vehicles. Often there are opportunities to purchase artworks by internationally renowned artists from art centres. Tours depart from Darwin or Alice Springs and Broome on request. Palya Art Tours operates between April and October each year.
Aboriginal Art Connections offer specialised Aboriginal art trips to some of the most remote locations in Australia. The five day Arnhem Land tour visits art centres at Oenpelli, Maningrida, Yirrkala and Elcho Island. These centres are located in isolated Aboriginal communities which are difficult to access by road. The tour provides travel in a comfortable twin engine aircraft with all required entry permits, accommodation and meals included. Members of the tours are able to buy directly from community art centres
Spirit Safaris offer small group Tanami Track Aboriginal Art Tours from Alice Springs for 6 days and 5 nights. The tours are of a general adventure travel character but with significant emphasis on Aboriginal culture, including visits to five art centres. The trips run from Alice Springs to Broome via Halls Creek or from Broome to Alice Springs via the Tanami Track.