Open call: DESIGN Canberra festival

9–29 NOVEMBER 2020

DESIGN Canberra is calling for projects for the 2020 festival that celebrate and promote Canberra as a living design laboratory, a global city of design.

Submit your proposals by 4 March 2020.

DESIGN Canberra has resonated with ever-increasing audiences near and far because design is in our city’s DNA. DESIGN Canberra is a powerful platform to promote design and the work of designers. Presented annually since 2014, DESIGN Canberra has grown to embrace a regional and global focus, becoming a critical and collaborative forum for contemporary, relevant, experimental and authentic design.

DESIGN Canberra is also the ACT’s fastest growing festival. 2019 was an amazing year of growth, inspiration, excellence and engagement – a result of creative collaborations and strategic partnerships with Canberra’s craft and design sector and the broader community. In 2019, over 114,000 people engaged with the festival’s curated program of exhibitions, talks, tours, collaborations, open homes and artist studios, activations and markets showcasing the best in design.


In 2020, the value of care is more important than ever: for our community, for our creativity, for craft and for our world.

The 7th edition of DESIGN Canberra (9-29 November 2020) will become a collaborative forum for contemporary, experimental and authentic design to celebrate and explore the ways that care and caring is valuable and vital.

Canberra-raised contemporary visual artist Patricia Piccinini advocates for the intrinsic value and significant responsibility of care for everyone because ‘when you care for another it is much easier to care for the rest of the world[1]’. Her Skywhale (commissioned for the 2013 centenary of Canberra celebrations) expresses maternity and care and we look forward to meeting Skywhalepapa in 2020, who cares for multiple children in his pod (commissioned by the National Gallery of Australia).

At a time when many of us feel an urgency to commit to personal transformation to address the climate crisis, it is important to remember that care not only for the environment but for each other has never been more critical. Scientist Susan Moser explains that looking after one another will be vital to our future: “We keep talking about the three Fs: fight, flight, or freeze, but there is a fourth one, and that’s the one that actually helped us survive…. The forming of bonds, or the be-friending. That’s the piece that got us to cooperate as a species and recognize that we have greater advantage when we work together as opposed to everyone for themselves.[2]’

DESIGN Canberra is the primary outreach program for Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre, one of the longest continuously running visual arts membership organisations in Australia, supporting artists, craft practitioners, designers and makers at every stage of their careers.

For the craft sector, care underpins a maker’s commitments: to forge new relationships to materials; to invest time to learn and develop techniques, skill and practice; and pay respect to craft’s tradition of exchange, mentoring and collaboration. As Kevin Murray (independent craft writer and curator) acknowledges, ‘The entry requirement for craft is a universal human capacity —care. This care for the world in using the gifts of nature to sustain and give meaning to our shared existence is an ideal to be found in all cultures.’[3]

There are many ways to get involved:

  • Living Rooms: DESIGN Canberra has struck a chord with architecture lovers from all over Australia, celebrating the best in contemporary architecture from the Canberra Region. One of the most popular programs, Living Rooms is a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore some of Canberra’s finest houses, all while discovering works on sale by local artists, makers and craft practitioners. Architects and homeowners are invited to propose recent projects for the 2020 Living Rooms program.
  • Exhibitions: DESIGN Canberra has always been a shared platform for celebrating the broader Canberra creative community. Craft ACT is committed to supporting a vibrant and sustainable local arts sector and is pleased to share the DESIGN Canberra platform with like-minded organisations and artists. If you are an artist or gallery planning a relevant exhibition coinciding with the festival dates (9-29 November, 2020), submit a proposal to have your exhibition included in the festival program.
  • General ideas: DESIGN Canberra welcomes proposals which align with the festival values, ambitions and aspirations including: contemporary, relevant, exploratory and authentic. Whether you are an individual maker, a collective, a cultural or educational institution, a business, a researcher or a government agency, the festival provides a platform for a multi-faceted exploration of design arts and creative industries. DESIGN Canberra is attracting more, and new, audiences each year.  Proposals are welcome for: events, tours, workshops, activations, installations, design-related performance, public talks, publication launches, food and drink, online works, research.


Get in touch with Design Canberra if you need more information.



[1] Skywhale creator unveils a companion, Skywhalepapa, to fly over Canberra by Naaman Zhou and Steph Harmon The Guardian Australia 20 November 2019

[2] Despairing about the Climate Crisis? Read This. Earth Island Journal article by Laurie Mazur 22 July 2019

[3] Australian Design Centre interview by Lisa Cahill