Q&A with WTS Coordinators: Kieren Sanderson


Kieren works across a broad spectrum of roles and capacities including creative producer, community cultural practitioner, strategist and curator to create interdisciplinary projects inspired by history, language, human ecology, storytelling and cultural knowledges.  

When asked to tell us about her practice, Kieren responded: "Oh gosh, I’m at my most inspired when I can work in response to a place, site, context and community." She loves working with diverse communities and perspectives to create projects and programs that explore human connection, identity, storytelling and place. Kieren often finds herself contemplating the beauty of the project and whether the call to care or be inspired is "enough to move people to ‘act’."


Period as WTS Coordinator: 2004 - 2007


Kieren Sanderson image.jpg


4.     Why did you apply for the Coordinator position originally? Was it what you expected? 

I don’t think I actually applied. I moved to Alice to help Ochre Lawson who is a Sydney based painter, to install an exhibition and after 2 weeks, I decided to stay. I got a job at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre and I went onto the WTS Committee. From there I somehow made it to being the Coordinator and I loved it.


5.     How did you find working at WTS? Was it different from arts organisations you had/have since worked for? 

I loved working at WTS. It shaped me in ways that will forever make me a better person!! WTS was for me like discovering I had a family who loved and thought and worked and made art and everything in my life roll in ways I cannot describe. I felt supported to discover at WTS that I never felt in any other organisation.


6.     What were some of your fondest memories at WTS? 

Some of my fondest memories – wow, where do I start!

  • Sharing space with Sue Mcleod who was painting in the studio every day and the flow on from that – meeting and knowing Sue’s incredible family.

  • Sitting out the back under the grapevine and hatching ideas with a brew (or two!)

  • Seeing Dan’s car pull up outside and thinking – “Cool, I need to ask him….or “I wonder if he can help me move…”

  • Listening and learning from Dan Murphy.

  • Probably one of the funniest memories was when we (the committee) decided to render the inside and outside of the building. Two days of being covered in concrete dust, lime and dirt later, my feet, my eyelids, my hands and even my ears peeled!!

  • Painting the shed RED!!

  • Hosting an exhibition from Elliat Rich which was my introduction to Elliat’s work. I was instantly in love with her brain.

  • Discovering and sharing an office space with the infamous Alex Kelly strategist and change agent who made me realise that I had skills!

  • Seeing Jbirds’ writing on the wall out the back each day, reminded me every day about who had come before and who I was working for…


7.     Tell us about your greatest achievements during your time as the Coordinator. 

I was super proud of taking WTS from $25k pa to $50k pa and then we received Strategic Funding for Shifting Ground and none of us had even heard of that funding.. I am most proud of the Incubator and Shifting Ground projects. Both projects were in 2007.

For those unfamiliar with these projects:

The Ideas Incubator launched an ideas space and network where professionals from a range of disciplines could collaboratively investigate how the arts can be used to re-imagine people’s lived relationships with ‘place’, ‘community’ ‘culture’ and ‘the environment’.

Participants had the opportunity to imagine, design and plan projects that gave expression to multiple local knowledge and new energy to the way public space was thought about, used and developed in Alice Springs.

Shifting Ground – 21 days of Art and Performance across Alice Springs was a large-scale arts program that presented 58 local, interstate and international artists in Alice Springs. The program included visual arts, public art interventions, design, sound installations, music, spoken word, literature, performance and dance. All artworks were ‘embedded’ in and around Alice Springs across 13 venues, including empty shops, an abandoned quarry site, claypans, the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens, the Alice Springs Library book shelves, suburban laneways and the Airport baggage claim. A public program which ran concurrently that included 9 workshops and artist talks and 5 performance events, as well as 4 exhibitions in offsite spaces. Artist Talks and workshops facilitated discussions where audiences were able to engage critically with artists from varied disciplines. Their common aim was to link people to art, land and culture, responding to the arid lands on a physical, social and cultural level, telling stories of people and place and exploring sustainability and ecology.


8.     In your eyes, what makes WTS an important organisation?

The people in it. WTS supports artists to explore and experiment whilst holding space for them. WTS provides a supportive environment so that artists can expose themselves and be vulnerable. This is increasingly important.


9.     Where are you now: geographically, work-wise, life-wise? 

I am still in the NT and somehow I ended up in Darwin. I went back to Alice a few years to do the Arts and Cultural Policy for the Alice Springs Town Council. Alice is a place that I am forever committed too so I think I will forever try to get back every now and again.


10.  Has WTS contributed to where you are now? 

There is no doubt!


11.  An acrostic poem out of Watch This Space...

















This interview is part of WTS's 2018 program Still Alive After 25 celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Read more interviews with past and current WTS coordinators here