Craig Rochfort

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Craig lives design and art and creativity. He lives and works in Byron Bay and he’s the latest subject for the Le Sunshine People series.

The doors were open but I couldn’t see anybody inside. The white walls were draped with framed watercolours from the current exhibition and the brushed concrete floor was cold under my bare feet and there was no clutter. Just a wide wooden table that held neat piles of books and magazines. And a red sign that read Art Park.

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I was flicking through Thomas Campbell’s Slide when a bloke with a beard and a big smile appeared. “Welcome!” he said, with hand outstretched. This was how I first met Craig Rochfort.

It was years ago now, maybe 2012, I’m not sure what we talked about, probably the current exhibition and the books and the surf. But also the fact that I was new to Byron Bay, and that I was a writer who wanted to get a feel for the arts scene in this very-big, little-town.

Craig, along with Paul McNeil, ran the gallery; but it was so much more than that. They brought artists to Byron Bay from all over the world as part of an artists residency. They would live and work in the community to share their art and soak up the good vibes.

The residencies culminated in an exhibition. The works were up for sale and there was an opening night party that saw fresh artworks on the walls, bands playing and there were beers from the brewery only a few streets away.

These Art-Park-jams were an institution, but after many years of generously incubating artistic talent Craig and Paul decided to look further afield.

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RVCA opening night. Photo by Art Park

“We thought about it long and hard, but in the end we felt there were new opportunities to work with some of these people. Art Park is still going, we’re actually opening a store at Newrybar Merchants (just outside Byron Bay). I was keen to breath some new life into it.” Craig explained.

But of course that’s not the end of the story. From these beginnings, with these links to the art world and a finely tuned aesthetic eye, Craig has gone even bigger, to establish the creative outfit Jane Fender.

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It’s a completely different way of delivering problem solving to organisations and brands, we’re actually having trouble defining it in terms of a traditional creative agency. But in the end I think that’s the biggest opportunity.” Craig says.

A post shared by Jane Fender (@janefender) on

 

Gone are the artist residencies, but instead, Craig has called on his broad artistic network to build a membership of creative superstars to offer clients that most rare of insights, true outsider thinking.

“Artists and creatives and social scientists can be difficult to manage, and their ideas, if they’re any good, will be radical. So they don’t fit the mould for big corporate clients. They’re hard to tame and we act as the filter.”

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Craig’s building a business, with international clients and lofty ambitions, but that won’t stop his wanderlust. Travel always seems to include art galleries, architecture tours, Nick Cave gigs and hunting down the lurid colours of the Memphis Group.

He has the eye of a designer, but also that casual Aussie charm that’s so good at disarming strangers when you’re on the road.

Like when he was in Mongolia and he was looking for the country’s little known National museum. It took some digging but he found the gallery.

But, of course, he got to talking to the curators who ran the place, about their collection and some management problems they were having. Before long he was involved in inter-governmental negotiations to build a fund to both develop the museum and reinvigorate an important cultural asset for the country and its citizens.

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Art and design and creativity are far more than work to Craig. It’s his business, his passion and I can only imagine that it defines the lens through which he sees the world everyday.

So Byron is a pretty good fit.

Cheers,

Le Sunshine.

 

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