DESIGN Canberra festival guide: The design student – Design Canberra Festival

Phoebe Porter. Photo: 5 Foot Photography
Phoebe Porter. Photo: 5 Foot Photography

DESIGN Canberra festival guide: The design student

Are you a budding design student with a super keen interest on all things craft and design? Do you want to gain as much knowledge, experience and inspiration that you can from leaders in the design industry?

If so, then the 2020 DESIGN Canberra Festival is your chance to really immerse yourself, we don’t want you to miss out, and we also know that you’re on a pretty tight budget so here is our pick of what you won’t want to miss on this year’s program – and every single event it free to attend!

Emerging Contemporaries. Photo: 5 Foot Photography


DESIGN Canberra is packed full of chances to mingle, party and learn through talks, workshops and events. So, prepare yourself to be transported into the intriguing and fascinating world of craft and design at DESIGN Canberra Festival 2020.

Running Monday to Saturday, head to Tuggeranong Arts Centre for Agency by Design, an exhibition looking at how good design can engender agency in someone living with disability. The Exhibition showcases over 50 objects from artists across Australia and overseas, and includes work from designers who live with a disability and organisations that work closely with the disability community.

Or explore the stunning works of Japanese-born ceramic artists Hiroe Swen at the Hiroe – ‘A lifetime of hand-built ceramics’ exhibition at Sturt Gallery. Back when she did her apprenticeship in Japan, Hiroe was a pioneer in ceramic society with very few female potters. This collection recognises her six-decade career, as well as showcasing her stunning new work.

It’s been a zoo, the Institute of Anatomy, a morgue and now a cutting-edge preservation facility – learn more about the National Film and Sound Archive, one of Canberra’s most fascinating buildings, in a free presentation, If These Walls Could Talk, on Friday morning. You can then grab a map and head on a self-guided tour to see the features up close.

This week is also a great time to familiarise yourself with DESIGN Canberra festival hub in the Monaro Mall on City Walk. Here you can explore engaging exhibitions like A Common Thread, which is a contemporary and multidisciplinary collaboration between emerging makers Sam Gold and Harriet McKay, or see the works of Canberra’s artists of the future at Emerging Contemporaries, featuring local early-career artists. It will also be home to talks, workshops, events and wellbeing sessions throughout the whole festival (plenty of them free).

Round out week one with City Sessions at the DESIGN Canberra festival hub on City Walk, from 4.30pm on Friday. Sit back, relax and take in live music from Cathy Diver against the backdrop of iconic mid-century design and architecture, complemented by a contemporary art installation by Canberra artist Hannah Quinlivan and a graphic intervention ground mural by fellow Canberra artist Hannah Gason.

And on Saturday, take a trip to Stromlo Cottage in Coombs for the Cottage Eco Market, where you can browse and shop up-cycled or sustainable fashion, homewares and other goods. You can also check out the launch of the new recycled sculpture commissioned by Molonglo Conservation Group as part of a Molonglo River clean up activity.

City Sessions. Photo: 5 Foot Photography


So, with Week 01 complete, let’s take a look at what’s in the program for week 02 of the festival.

Any day of the festival when you’ve got a spare moment, pop by the Sweet Suburbia: 2020 Photography Competition exhibition at Canberra Contemporary Art Space. This year’s entrants responded to the theme of ‘This is Suburbia’, and the result is a collection of diverse and intriguing perspectives on our city’s suburban identity.

On Friday evening, City Sessions is on again at the DESIGN Canberra festival hub, this time around with live music from Victor Rufus. While you’re there, you can join the opening of the c/o Craft ACT: 2020 Annual Members exhibition from 5pm, showcasing current trends in contemporary craft and design.

Spend your Saturday exploring and stepping into the studios of some of Canberra’s best designers and makers with Week Two of the Open Studios. This weekend’s open studios include Kirstie Rea and Lucy Palmer, Monique van Nieuwland, Valerie Kirk and Avi Amesbury and Kindly Ceramics at Canberra Potter’s. If you can fit it in at 11am, pop into the Monaro Mall where some of the artists from the Canberra Centre exhibitions will discuss the works on display.

And on Saturday or Sunday, swing by the Kindness Cafe in the DESIGN Canberra festival hub. You’ll be offered a cupcake or cookie, and in return, you’ll be asked to sit for a minute and share a story of kindness you have received, with the notes of kindness then displayed alongside the cafe. It’ll give you all of the feels!

Photo: Five Foot Photography


  It’s the last week of DESIGN Canberra, but there’s still plenty more to see and do.

On Monday at 12.30pm, learn the tricks of the trade for architectural drawing at a free workshop, covering everything from line types, different mediums, capturing the right perspective, and balancing colours and textures.

It’s been a big three weeks, so stretch it out on Thursday at a free morning yoga session at the DESIGN Canberra Festival Hub.

You know the drill on Friday arvo – head to the final City Sessions event at the DESIGN Canberra festival hub, where you can settle in and take in live music against the backdrop of iconic mid-century design and architecture.

And Saturday is a great opportunity to visit a lineup of amazing local designers and makers during Week Three of Open Studios. Between 10am and 4pm, you can swing by studios including FINK Design, Atelier 818: Lisa Cahill, Storybird Studio, Pure Pod, Thor’s Hammer and plenty more.

  Looking for more to do? There’s plenty more to see, do and experience during DESIGN Canberra 2020. Head to for the full program.




DESIGN Canberra acknowledges the Ngunnawal people as the traditional custodians of the ACT and surrounding areas. We honour and respect their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to this country and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region. We aim to respect cultural heritage, customs and beliefs of all Indigenous people.