We acknowledge the Kariyarra, Ngarla and Nyamal people as the Traditional Custodians of these lands and waters where our main office is located in Port Hedland. We recognise their strength and resilience and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

As the culmination of the very first Pilbara Fashion Festival, and the 12 months of capacity building work developing creative entrepreneurs that led up to it, Pilbara Style was a watershed moment of 2021 for The Junction Co.; celebrating the zest of local creatives in a uniquely fabulous North West way, under strings of festoon lights and the glow of the iconic Hedland water tower, silhouetted against that ubiquitous industrial skyline. 

Bringing together 12 Pilbara-based designers and showcasing more than 80 individual looks, Pilbara Style transported its audience to an international fashion show while keeping their feet firmly planted in the pindan. Its sartorial calibre rivalling that of Melbourne Fashion Week, if Anna Wintour was not sitting in the front row, well, the loss was surely hers alone.  

“There is a view that Pilbara life is perhaps not particularly sophisticated; that it’s dry, industrial and short on arts and cultural opportunities.

“That’s not true. Many of the people we encounter are tapping into their creativity for the first time, inspired by a thirst here for new experiences, the eclectic melting pot of cultures – including the oldest living culture in the world – and the infectious and raw natural environment of the Pilbara.

“We also know that strong creative industries translate to income streams and sustainable livelihoods for creatives, support liveability, and can be and transformative for whole communities.”

Elisa Trifunoski, Regional Curator

A growing recognition is building for the work of The Junction Co., at the most micro, hyper-local level, and right across the Pilbara region to the far reaches of the state and beyond. 

With team members based in Hedland and Karratha through much of the financial year, and with a program that extends throughout both the east and west Pilbara, The Junction Co. is unashamedly bending and moulding it’s program to fill the contours of this wide region. 

Through partnerships with dynamic, forward thinking organisations – most notably Regional Arts WA, the Town of Port Hedland and BHP – The Junction Co. has been able to deliver a body of work which centres on the key notions of community engagement, capacity building and celebrating creativity. The organisation’s values of authenticity, belonging and connection, and being evolutionary influence an annual program which challenges and inspires, and pushes the arts and cultural boundaries of the Pilbara ever further. 

Do you see a pattern emerging here? Creative, but make it Pilbara. It’s audacious, a go big or go home mentality, an understanding that in one of the most striking, exaggerated, and unforgiving landscapes in the world, one should never think small.  

On a Wednesday morning just before Christmas, the sound of giggling is in the air in the gardens behind the Courthouse Gallery+Studio. But it’s not schoolchildren with belly laughs leaking out through gap-toothed smiles; the infectious sound comes from more than half a dozen grown adults playing chasey in the shade of an old rain tree, a wall of rainbow coloured umbrellas forming a backdrop, the steamy North West humidity no barrier to their games. 

The revellers are part of the Creative Leadership program, an initiative of the Regional Arts Network delivered across the state by member organisations and supported by Regional Arts WA. The Junction Co. has been the first to grab this opportunity with both hands and deploy it across the Pilbara region at two events that will reach participants from Hedland, Tom Price, Karratha and Newman. 

The sessions are led by Dr Shona Erskine, psychologist and lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. The program is designed to help individuals and communities tap into their creativity to specifically nurture the growth of leaders in the Pilbara… and if the LOLs are anything to go by, the course content is not your standard leadership training. 

“Creative Leadership aligns perfectly to our core value of growth and empowerment, and it’s one of the programs I’m most excited about,” says Katie Evans.

“It’s helping to build and grow current and future regional leaders, and giving people permission to find creative solutions for community challenges, to generate the ideas that lead to innovation. We want to grow a population of people who are skilled at being leaderful.

“Often creatives are overlooked as leaders, which is a huge opportunity lost for the individual and for the community… you should always have your most innovative minds at the decision-making table. We also know that leadership doesn’t just mean having a title, or holding a ‘big’ role – there are opportunities to be leaderful in almost all situations.”

Embodying The Junction Co.’s core value of accountability – responsiveness, agility, adaptiveness – the team has created a dynamic platform with tangible learnings to upskill Pilbara creatives to bid for and deliver large public art commissions. Guided by three accomplished artists in Paula Hart, Leanne Bray and Jahne Rees, and combining online and face-to-face learning, Evolve gives participants and network members the knowledge, skills, practice and confidence to deliver on public art briefs, telling local stories in an authentic way, and ensuring public art commissions in the region reflect the narratives of the Pilbara.

Launched in Karratha late in the financial year, Evolve will roll out across the region, building capacity in creative practitioners with a practical toolkit for creating public art.

It’s a hot February night and a crowd has gathered in the gardens of the Courthouse Gallery+Studio. The Portside Summer Movie Series is in full swing as the sun begins to fall into the Indian Ocean behind Finucane Island. Tonight’s sunset screening of a Bollywood romance – a celebration of Harmony Day – is being thoroughly enjoyed by patrons dressed in a riot of colour who share picnics and pass drinks from the eskies they’ve brought along from home. 

Young graduates and travellers seeking North West adventures mingle with the slightly more weathered faces of the ‘lifers’, those who’ve called this place home forever and love it with a ferocity that burns; both of these groups and all of the groups in between enrich each other’s lives in this crucible of cultures and creeds. 

A space where time is punctuated by the comings and goings of the massive ore carriers that glide in and out of the narrow mouth of the harbour – marapikurrinya as the area is known to its Traditional Owners, the Kariyarra people – the Portside precinct offers glimpses of life in Port Hedland through the decades, where layer upon layer of social change has left its patina on the natural and built forms; the mangroves where the Kariyarra found fish and oysters and crabs, the merchants and the pubs along The Esplanade whose frontages were amongst the first constructed when pearling and wool brought white settlers to town, and the thoroughly modern shade structures of Wedge Street which celebrate the designs of local Indigenous artists.

This unique story is brought together in the Portside walking tour which celebrates the history of the precinct, its people and its landmarks.

In the late afternoon on a Saturday in June, The Junction Co. team is vibrating with the hum of happy exhaustion that comes from a having executed a large event exceptionally well.

And they should feel happy; they’ve just wrapped up the opening of The Jury Art Prize 2021 exhibition, a mammoth 24-hour creativity marathon packed with enough action to tempt even the most hardened culture-phobe; a virtual gallery which made sales around the world, live piano music at 4am, food trucks, cocktails, meditation by candlelight, sunrise yoga and art livestreamed to busy Yagan Square in Perth, attended by a huge audience both online and IRL.

“We always found ourselves facing the same question,” says Courthouse Gallery+Studio Manager Caitlin Dominey.

“When you are trying to reach everyone in a town that never sleeps – a town where business hours don’t really end and where ‘knock-off’ is as likely to be at sunrise as sunset – what time should you hold an exhibition opening? So we decided to do it at all hours – literally – to genuinely give everyone the chance to be involved… and people really embraced it!” 

Of course, The Junction Co. is developing, showcasing and celebrating incredibly accomplished regional Western Australian artists – and seeing the calibre of the finalists in The Jury Art Prize there can be no doubt of that – but the team is equally interested in and excited about the person connecting with their creativity for the first time. Take the visitor who wandered into the new ceramics studio and became a regular creator; encouraged to enter a piece of work into The Jury Art Prize, the newly minted ceramicist’s piece was not only accepted into the finalists’ exhibition, but actually sold. This person has gone on to apply for space in an exhibition in the new financial year. 

Imagine weighted/wait_[2020]an exhibition of works created entirely by community members seeking to share and understand their relationship with time and space in a post-COVID environment – from school children to emergency services volunteers, from high-vis clad miners to community elders, and curated in real time by those same community members on opening night. Quite the artistic democracy, no? 

A basket weaving and jewellery making workshop with migrant women rekindling a lost cultural art practice became a spontaneous moment of catharsis, as women with small children were drawn to participate in the sessions and share something of themselves, their culture and their rituals with people they were meeting largely for the first time. 

Strangers talked about the hardships of living in the Pilbara, about the loneliness of being a new mother or an isolated new arrival, and the struggles of missing families living overseas. Women were holding each other’s babies so that they could finish their project, and discussing how they could continue making in the future. 

There is truly a place for everyone to be empowered by this organisation’s body of work, and that’s considered high praise indeed by The Junction Co.’s leadership team. Taking a brief collective moment at the end of that 24-hour opening – that test of creative endurance – before sending the team home to bed, Katie Evans is smiling, pleased.

Image Credits (top to bottom, left to right): Pilbara Style staircase entrance, Pilbara Style 2021, Nur-Irdah Halik, (F)empowered Communications; Inside the model’s tent, Pilbara Style 2021, Brook O’Grady, By The Brook Photography; The Art of Everyday Collection shown at Karijini National Park, Karijini Runway 2021, Brook O’Grady, By The Brook Photography; The Art of Everyday video, The Junction Co., filmed by Amelia Blanco, AB Videography; Creative Leadership Program Port Hedland (The Web Hub) 2021, The Junction Co.; Creative Leadership Program Port Hedland (Courthouse Gallery+Studio) 2021, The Junction Co.; Creative Leadership Program Port Hedland (The Web Hub) 2021, The Junction Co.; Evolve Program Karratha 2021, The Junction Co.; Wedge Street mural in Portside, The Junction Co.; Community Mural, Courthouse Gallery+Studio 2020, The Junction Co.; Kids activities, Marapikurrinya Park, Portside 2020, The Junction Co.; Community mural, Portside 2021, The Junction Co.; Markets video, Courthouse Gallery+Studio 2021, The Junction Co.; The Jury Art Prize 2021 artwork display in Yagen Square, Regional Arts WA.; Domes from the community exhibition weighted/wait_[2020], The Junction Co.; Kids ceramics workshop for the community exhibition weighted/wait_[2020], The Junction Co.; Weaving workshop by Megan Ward for the community exhibition TEND 2021, The Junction Co.; Exhibition opening, Courthouse Gallery+Studio 2021, The Junction Co.