Step Into First Nations Art with Connection

Grande’s Head of Creative Experiences, Gary Moynihan, guides us through the meticulous creative process behind Grande’s Connection experience.

Connection presents First Nations art and music in a mesmerising display of digital projections, offering a unique opportunity to be fully immersed in the rich cultural heritage of First Nations peoples

Q: How do you start the creative process?

A: The creative process can start in several ways. Sometimes, it’s an idea floating around, waiting to be validated. Other times, it can come from a personal affinity or an identified gap in the market.

Occasionally, there’s a gut feeling that something will work well, and we got that feeling with Connection. We knew that the immersive medium would work with First Nations artworks – the colour, the details, the saturation – it all looks incredible in digital projections.

The idea initially came from our CEO, Bruce Peterson’s passion for Indigenous art and through conversations with Aboriginal Art Specialist Adam Knight. Adam is also the curator of Mitchelton’s Gallery of Aboriginal Art and has developed extensive relationships with the Indigenous arts community. It’s an essential step in the creative process was to consult with subject matter experts like Adam to guide us through the process.

Grande Experiences Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi
Photo Credit: Grande Experiences, Artist: Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi

Q: What’s the narrative of Connection?

A: The narrative of Connection was one of the biggest challenges in the creative process. The team initially considered a geographical journey, but there were too many styles for a single location, and it quickly became disjointed. The goal is always to create a cohesive story arc for the visitors to engage with.

After consulting with the National Museum of Australia (NMA), the themes of Land, Water and Sky were established as the touchpoints of the experience. The themes were titled Our Country, Water Country and Sky Country. We asked Elders to write about the significance of the themes, which we turned into spoken word narration for the experience. This provided the backbone of the experience and allowed us to create stories within stories.

Q: Did you have a wish list of artists?

A: The artist list evolved with suggestions from Adam Knight and our other experts. There were so many amazing artists we wanted to include, but in the end it came down to which artworks fit the narrative arc. We ended up with a fantastically broad spectrum of artists, from significant painters like Emily Kame Kngwarreye to contemporaries like Sarrita King.

We knew it was a leap of faith for artists to allow the inclusion of their work, and we worked to build trust and ensure the animation was respectful to the art.

Q: Tell me about the other experts involved.

A: In addition to Adam, the experts involved in the project included photographer Wayne Quillam, Margo Ngawa Neale from the National Museum of Australia, and Rhoda Roberts AO, consultant and member of the Indigenous Advisory Panel. Wayne provided invaluable guidance and understanding of the artist’s subject matter. Margo kept the team on track with the narrative and correct accreditation, while Rhoda’s expertise with digital, big-scale Indigenous art was critical to the project.

Q: What additional research did the creative team do?

A: The artwork in the experience is fantastic, and we knew that any stock footage would stick out a mile as inauthentic and we quickly realised we needed something special to complement the art. Some of the creative team travelled to Far North Queensland with Wayne Quillam, where they met Elders, stayed with the communities, and filmed performances and music that we included in the experience. The footage they got is amazing and we feel privileged to include it in the finished experience.

Connection by Grande Experiences
Photo credit: Grande Experiences, Artist: Wayne Quillam

Q: Tell me about the soundtrack – what role does it play in the experience?

The criteria for any experience is for the music to be powerful, evocative, familiar and authentic, just like the artwork, to take visitors on a journey. The music is profoundly moving, and also following the themes of Land, Water, and Sky and corresponding to the experience’s movements. The diverse soundtrack ranges from classical to original recordings to Baker Boy. The music is never background music; it drives the narrative’s pacing and is crucial to the image changes and animations. It acts as the heartbeat of the experience and helps orient visitors in the narrative.

We want Connection to be a celebration of First Nations culture that’s accessible and appealing to people of all ages and backgrounds. We hope Connection helps visitors gain a deeper appreciation for First Nations art and be inspired to explore it further.