An array of maps about Western Sydney have been circulated on the internet in recent years—as social media memes, data visualisations or illustrations accompanying news stories—that reinforce our region’s perceived geographic, social, and economic distance from the rest of Sydney.
In response to this, Creative West presents a different view of Western Sydney that includes an interactive map of local creative businesses and organisations, and a curated snapshot of what’s currently happening in the cultural space. It aims to contribute to ongoing conversations about culture in the west, particularly the impact, capacity, and potential of our localised creatives in the context of the unprecedented urban growth and development occurring in Western Sydney.
Creative West is based on the findings of a doctoral research study that sought to identify the existence of, and better understand, the Design sector in Western Sydney. The data about designers shown on this map was updated in 2020 and augmented by other sites where culture is produced, learned, or experienced.
This website is for the general public, particularly people who are interested in or involved with art and culture and would like to see what’s happening in Western Sydney, which has often been represented by the media as “uncultured”. It’s also a resource for teachers working with young creatives who could be inspired by the creative people and places close to home, and for locals more broadly who might be tired of seeing our home turf presented in the usual light.
Through the interactive map you can explore approximately 500 active sites of cultural production, featuring visual communication practice (spanning advertising, graphic design, illustration, photography, mural & street art, screen media, web & app), and also galleries, museums, maker spaces, co-working spaces, performing arts hubs, and places to develop your creative talent or learn about culture in the west. Explore the map from a birds-eye view, zoom into specific suburbs, and click on a pin to access more info about a site. You can also filter your view by clicking on the arrow on the top left of the map and typing in a suburb, name, or selecting from the category list.
It’s important to acknowledge that this map is limited, and there are many more creatives, including visual artists, musicians, performing artists, writers, fashion designers, and architects in Western Sydney that should also be seen. However, this was beyond the scope of the original research that catalysed Creative West.
Also missing from the map are important sites from the past such as Mount Druitt’s Garage Graphix (a community arts studio that galvanised local voices for 17 years), the former home of prominent artists Margot and Gerald Lewers in Emu Plains (a popular hang-out for Sydney’s modernist scene which is now the Penrith Regional Gallery), Penrith and Blacktown’s Street Level (an artist-run space that influenced the emergence of Australian hip-hop), and the Torin building in Penrith (world-famous architect Marcel Breuer’s only Australian building). It’s hoped that future iterations of this project can also include the stories of these sites.
Creative West is managed by Katrina Sandbach; a designer, researcher, and educator.
Having grown up in Western Sydney during the ’90s, she studied design at Western Sydney University and like many of her friends, in the final throes of her degree she hurriedly moved to the city, because that’s what you had to do to find work (at the time). After a decade living in East Sydney while working as a designer and dabbling in other creative areas, she was given the opportunity to teach at her old university. She now lives in the upper Blue Mountains with her family which affords an entirely different perspective on what it means to be “creative” in a diverse, complex, and vast terrain.
Katrina’s long connection with Western Sydney infuses her work and she has been an ardent supporter of a variety of grassroots initiatives that seek to develop and celebrate emerging creative talent in the region.
If you have a project, an idea, or feedback about Creative West, please send Katrina a message using the contact form.