photo-icon Nat Rogers

Neo: recruiting a new team of art influencers

Cultural Heart

For any teenagers thinking a trip to the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) amounts to nothing more than staring quietly at paintings – the gallery’s Neo team, a volunteer committee of art-loving teenagers into everything from Hans Heysen to hip-hop, are here to set you straight.

Every year, a new group of Neo Ambassadors comes together to help curate and deliver six free Neo events at AGSA – each one aimed at showing teenagers that the gallery can be a place for discovering new ways to experience different types of art with your friends, all while having some serious parent-free fun!

In the lead-up to Neo’s last event for 2019, Neo: On the Horizon* on Saturday 14 December – a chance for teenagers to delve deeper into Tarnanthi and the world of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art – AGSA is making a final call-out for young people with big ideas, aged 13 to 17, to become Neo Teen Ambassadors in 2020.

18-year-old high school graduate Hannah Chessman enjoyed her experience of being a Neo Teen Ambassador to such an extent, she’s signed on for another run in 2020.

“I love the gallery so much and I want it to be something everyone can enjoy, whether or not they like art,” said Hannah. 

“There's sort of art in everything, you just need to find the right medium of subject matter that fits the right group of people so that everyone can appreciate the amazing cultural institution and the wonders it contains.”
Hannah Chessman, Neo Teen Ambassador.

Neo teen ambassadors hannah in black top
photo-icon Nat Rogers


No stranger to AGSA before joining the Neo team, Hannah credits her first visit to the gallery several years ago, as her inspiration for chasing a career in the arts.

“I was walking through with my friends and this is when they had the old military esq exhibition** downstairs,” said Hannah. “It made me want to pursue art in high school!”

An avid painter, Hannah is now embarking on an arts administration course at the Adelaide College of the Arts.

“I work mainly with acrylic but do enjoy oils as well (they’re super expensive though!). I like painting because it feels fun to just pick up a brush and create something interesting with all these different colours. It's different to drawing because it feels less constricted to be this one set thing.”

Hannah’s favourite part of helping curate arts-focused events that really speak to teenagers has been bringing smiles to the faces of fellow teens.

“I’d definitely recommend becoming a Neo Teen Ambassador. It's great being able to see the ins-and-outs of planning events like these and it's really great for team building too!”
Hannah Chessman

With a long summer break ahead of so many Adelaide teens, Hannah has some advice for young culture seekers.

“Definitely look for gallery exhibition openings! It's so interesting to see different stories being told in different mediums. It's also a really good way to hear about different local Adelaide artists. I find out about a lot of events through Facebook and Eventbrite – and many are free!”

If the outdoors calls, Hannah’s other tip for young art lovers is to soak up all the different public art that fills the city’s streets and laneways.

“I like to look at the street art culture we have in Adelaide because it's exciting to just run around seeing what you can find next – and there are so many forms of street art like stickers sculptures and murals. It always makes for a good photo opportunity as well as being interesting to think about why it's there. I enjoy going around to smaller city art galleries like FeltSpace too.”

If you’d like to become a Neo Teen Ambassador in 2020, you can find out more information and apply online. Applications close Friday 13 December 2020.

* Neo: On the Horizon is a chance for teenagers to delve deeper into Tarnanthi and the world of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. This event creates a space for young people to make some noise alongside emerging South Australian artists at AGSA, and a chance to connect with the artworks and each other through live music, artist-led workshops and sketch tours. Tarnanthi installation, Gurruṯu’mi Mala (My Connections) by Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu explores the artist’s connection to family, people and country through the use of 'barrkunu wanu', which means 'language from a distance'. At Neo: On the Horizon, Jo Agius and Samantha Wilson will lead an Auslan discussion on the work, accompanied by Koiranah Jacob who will verbally interpret the talk and facilitate a short sign language session.

Tarnanthi guti yunupingu photo by saul steed
photo-icon Saul Steed

Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu with his work Gurruṯu’mi Mala (My Connections), Tarnanthi 2019, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

**Sappers and Shrapnel exhibition (2016/17) - a contemporary art project inspired by the little-known and undervalued art form known as trench art.

Article by

Skye Murtagh

Skye Murtagh

Skye is Adelaide Living's main driving force. She is passionate about sharing stories from all walks of life. When she's not busy weaving beautiful words together, she's singing a line or two from her favourite song.