I recently caught up with Rabbit + Cocoon’s Co-Directors Emma Milikins, Mariam Arcilla and Jolie Hertzberg to get the scoop on all the wonderful work and projects R+C help facilitate for the Gold Coast community and beyond.

Rabbit + Cocoon is a not-for-profit creative precinct on the Gold Coast that provides spaces and resources for the creation, showcase and marketing of projects and businesses; what inspired the birth of R+C?

R+C: Rabbit and Cocoon was created out of a need rather than a want. It has now become the first official arts creative precinct on the Gold Coast and considering Brisbane is only 75kms away and they have over 10 arts precincts you can understand the need.

Rabbit + Cocoon started off 2012 by scooping up this year’s Cultural Achievement Award at the Gold Coast City Council Australia Day Awards; what did this mean to you?

R+C: Winning the Australia Day Cultural Achievement Award was a great moment for us. We were nominated by someone in the community and were awarded based on votes from across the full council of the Gold Coast. We were so surprised and excited to win, as we were nominated alongside some very established organisations on the Gold Coast. Winning this award was a great way to start 2012, it reaffirmed our passion for the project and the fact that we are providing meaningful outcomes for the broader community.

Between the three of you, you cover fashion (Emma), visual arts and cultural development (Mariam) and festivals and music (Jolie); tell us a little about your backgrounds.

R+C: Emma Milikins comes from a fashion and business world. She has been running her own fashion label for over 10 years, and is also a mentor to emerging designers.

Mariam Arcilla is an arts administrator, curator and writer who is passionate about placemaking, urban renewal and artist-run enterprises. She previously co-founded and curated 19 KAREN Contemporary Artspace and Tinygold artist-run initiative, and has also worked within the arts and culture sector of local and state government.

Jolie Hertzberg comes from a festivals, music and cultural development background; previously directing major festivals, developing live music venues and not-for-profit community projects in arts, youth and disability.

Can you give us little insight into what the current climate is like on the Gold Coast in your area of expertise?

R+C: Three words baby!: Exciting, Evolving and Collaborating! The biggest thing we’re seeing in the growth of creative industries on the Gold Coast is peer support and collaboration. We don’t have a wealth of high-end organisations, institutions, events or government support – but we do have a new wave of creative people who are passionate about staying on the Gold Coast and developing its culture. There is a strong attitude of ‘If it doesn’t exist, then let’s build it together’ amongst the creatives. We do have many limitations from a council and government perspective, mostly around the themes of licensing, venues, cultural policy and non-integrated approaches to the benefits of culture/creativity to the many facets of the city. We do, however, remain unabashedly confident that we are on the cusp of a great wave of positive change for the Gold Coast’s cultural identity.

Who are some of your favourite GC creatives?

R+C: Steve Nowland, one of our resident artists. He is an incredibly talented (and ridiculously humble) illustrator and designer, who is always willing to bring his passion and creativity to the table.

Polly Armstrong – whilst Polly now spends most of her time on the road, she is a local Gold Coast gal at heart and she is doing us all proud by being one of the most charismatic, hardworking  sought after creatives in the world. She’s primarily a photographer/videographer, but on any given day of the week she doubles as a festival organiser, editor, creative producer, muse and social advocate. Her latest project has involved working with Michael Franti on his world tour, documenting the journey and being a general go-to-gal in the recording of his latest album – and she is one of the busy bees who started Rabbit Radio at Rabbit+Cocoon!

Claudio Kirac – an amazing designer and artist who continues to kick goals internationally. Claudio has exhibited at Rabbit+Cocoon on numerous occasions, and has always been a supporter of our initiative. He is a true Gold Coast gem!

In your experience, how do you feel creative people from the Gold Coast are viewed/perceived?

R+C: It depends on who we speak to, but on the surface people do feel surprised when they learn that we are creative people who happen to live on the Gold Coast. The assumption is that we were meant to move elsewhere to forge proper careers, or to be taken seriously. The reason why we established Rabbit+Cocoon was to straight up debunk this perception. We do feel that in recent years, the perception of Gold Coast people is shifting, and there is a lot of media attention focusing the cultural aspects of our city, which is great. We need more of this!

What are some of the biggest challenges R+C have faced on you journey so far? How have you/are you overcoming them?

R+C: Time has been a contributing factor to challenges as we have spent a lot of time within bureaucratic, red tape, with council permits to become a lawful entity. Also it is very taxing being volunteers and not getting a wage for countless hours put into a project each week. At the same time it is a rewarding process for us, as we know that all our personal invested time goes into benefiting the community and the growth of local arts and culture.

What have been some of your personal favourite R+C projects you’ve worked on?

R+C: They all have their own stories and special place but we think it is the overall project that is continued to connect people and projects and put smiles on people’s faces! R+C have several ongoing projects: Miami Marketta – a monthly arts, fashion and food bazaar; The Shed – a coffee hub serving delicious light meals, coffee and specialty tea; Rabbit Radio – the city’s first independent progressive radio station; Studios UpLATE – a weekly twilight open studios and networking event.

Rabbit + Cocoon are currently running a Pozible campaign! Check out how you can contribute to helping grow the Gold Coast arts community here.

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