Interview: Chrissie Parrott

Posted by Morgan Leek, August 13th, 2012

One of the biggest issues facing any  independent West Australian artist is the lack affordable and accessible venues to create and show their work. So much so that renowned choreographer Chrissie Parrott and composer/sound artist Jonathan Mustard have the  taken slightly ambitious step of opening up their own multi purpose art, workshop, gallery and performance space in Maylands – just a ten minute drive from Perth’s CBD. Last week I (Tom) headed out to The Chrissie Parrott Art Space and caught up with Chrissie herself to find out all about the new space and her plans for an exciting group show at the end of the year.

Image supplied by Chrissie Parrott

Words: Tom Cramond (TC), Chrissie Parrott (CP)
Images: Tom Cramond 

TC. Why as an independent artist do you need a space like this?

CP. I’ve wanted  space like this for 30 years really, because as you may be aware I used to have a professional company and we were always renting space so you never had that sense of security. More recently because I’ve been dabbling in visual arts and prop making I decided it was time stretch my wings a little bit and be able to make a mess and not have to clean it up everyday! So I started looking for a space two years ago.  I was looking for a semi residential space with some kind of a workshop and that proved to be very expensive. I looked around O’Connor, Bibra Lake and far and wide because I didn’t think I would find anything close to the city. I even tried Osborne Park, but I found it was too industrial or too corporate industrial. Eventually I saw this space online and I just loved the front of it!

I drove past the place, looked in the window and there was just this big empty space and I just fell in love with it. I remember showing it to a few colleagues and when they saw the space they just went quiet – I think they though the space was too big to deal with, but it’s remarkable how quickly it fills up.

Also I’m at that place at my life and at my career where I’m very excited about the idea of presenting other people’s work. But I dont want to go into a formal (role) becoming a producer so I thought curating is the next best thing. I have a lot of friends from overseas as well and it is easy to bring artwork to another country through digital means.

On top of all of that Jonathan and I are still experimenting with our own digital display work (large scale projections) and it’s very difficult to find a space for that. If you don’t get funded you end up not doing anything. This  means that with the space even if we don’t get funded we can still continue with our work until we get the funding that we need, so it gives us incentive. Though you have to work hard in a space like this because it is still a business.

TC. How has working in this space helped you as an artist?

CP. One of the most important things about the space for both Jonathan and myself is that it can transform. Presently it has the gallery (approx 100sqm) with the artist studios and event space. However we are thinking in two years  why not pull all this infrastructure down – because it is all just smoke and mirrors really – and open it up as a big space potentially for site specific and performance based work.


TC. Are you and Jonathan running the space entirely by yourselves?

CP. I did a business course last year and Jonathan is doing the same course now and this means both of us are taking responsibility for this new business venture. Jonathan is called the ‘Space Man’ because he does all the space management out the back, and I’m doing the gallery management out the front. We’ve done all of this single handedly, all the infrastructure and everything we’ve built ourselves. It took a little bit of time but it’s been so rewarding watching the space change. It feels beautiful in here –  it has lots of character.

The property itself has a five year lease. When we spoke to the owner originally he was a bit worried about what we were going to do – “how can you make a gallery? It’s so grimy and messy in here!”.But we had a vision. And when  he came the other day he couldn’t believe it. We had to get an industrial cleaner to remove all the oil (the building used to be a panel beaters) but the great thing is that it feels like we’re always in the theatre.

TC. What have some of the challenges have been?

CP. When we were setting up the space we had to go and speak to the council (City of Bayswater) as the building is still classified as commercial. We went along a bit nervously – with my tap shoes in my pocket! – and we did a presentation in front of the council and they were absolutely fantastic, a unanimous vote of support. Do it, Go for it! I was a little nervous to begin with, but in the end they were fantastic and really quite vocal about their support for the project.

Right now one of the biggest challenges is making sure that we become visible, making sure we get our story out there onto the street and allow people to find out we’re here. Ultimately because it’s a business we have to make sure we have some kind of income coming into the space.


TC. And lastly, what can you tell us about your upcoming 12/12/12 project?

CP. I’m always looking for an angle on an event, and I’ve known about the triplicate (12/12/12) for a long time – It’s the last one for 88 years certainly the last one while we’re alive. I just thought it was a great angle. On the walls we are having 12×12 inch artworks (and I am being very specific about that) and we are doing a series of 12 minute performances from 12:12 am to 12 midnight the following day.

We’re having film, live performance (including specific, small scale dance), standup comedy and electro accoustic music. Already we have a quite a few artists and acts lined up which is really exciting. People can come and see a couple of performances, make their way out the back to watch some footage, maybe have 12 biscuits – who knows!

CALL OUT for work

Chrissie Parrott Arts is hosting a 12-hour event presenting film, artworks and live performance on Dec 12 2012 at 12.12pm till 12 minutes to 12pm. We are looking for expressions of interest from artists to show work at the new gallery + screen space in Maylands. Please submit your ideas to Chrissie Parrott Arts email below by the deadline, August 31.

Type of works we are looking for include:

Music Electro acoustic or acoustic x 4, 6, or 12mins duration performance Poetry, Monologue, Duologue, Solo dance, Duo dance x 4, 6, or 12mins duration film & video 4, 6, or 12mins duration, performance art 4, 6, or 12mins duration, 2d artworks 12×12 (inches); any medium (e.g. photo, digital art, painting, mixed media, illustration) framed, stretched, or mounted.

Full details can be found here. 

Visit Chrissie Parrott Arts at 4 Sussex Street, Maylands, WA. Open: Wed to Fri 12 – 5pm  Sunday 12 – 4pm

Chrissie Parrott Performance Company (formerly Jambird) was founded by Chrissie Parrott – a highly prolific, multi-award winning dance choreographer, and Jonathan Mustard – an experienced composer, working with computer music, visual arts and animation.Together they create hybrid performance works which are highly theatrical and often merge dance with theatre, visual arts, and live music. Chrissie Parrott is a core artist with Performing Lines WA.