Art Month is returning to Sydney, kickstarting its 2021 festival on March 4. Most of the events at the not-for-profit festival are free and make engaging in Sydney’s art community accessible and easy for everyone, from art-world newbies to old hands.

“Art Month Sydney has always been about discovering your own city,” festival director Emma O’Neill tells Broadsheet. “It is about entering the gallery spaces you may have walked past many times over and learning about the artists that are creating in your neighbourhood.”

The festival’s Art at Night series will once again be a cornerstone of Art Month, with several city precincts – including Parramatta, Chippendale and Redfern – hosting walking tours of local galleries, installations, immersive experiences and pop-up bars after dark. Highlights include the Green Square Art Afternoon at Sullivan & Strumpf, where a group of young artists – currently training with Sydney Dance Company – will perform in response to an exhibition by Lindy Lee. The afternoon will finish with a shindig at brewery Atomic Beer Project. And the self-guided Chippendale and Redfern Art at Night program will culminate at Central Park Mall on The Green, with a program curated by 107 Projects and Central Park Mall featuring large-scale projections by artist Blak Douglas, a pop-up bar with food and drink, and live performances.

The Collectors Space event returns, with some of Sydney’s top private collectors revealing key artworks from their troves. Tie-in events will include a panel about starting your own collection and an exhibition of under-represented artists from Parramatta Artists’ Studios.

As ever, Art Month will involve an edible element. This year that will take the form of an eight-course vegetarian degustation using ingredients foraged by Diego Bonetto ($150) at Galerie Pompom in Chippendale, and an after-hours conversation between Lill Colgan, one of Parramatta Artists’ Studios’ exhibiting artists, and artist-curator Sidney McMahon at Paramount House Hotel, accompanied by snacks and wine.

“Our events are more relaxed with less emphasis on dancing and DJs and a little more time for small workshops, intimate gallery dinners and immersive projections,” says O’Neill. “For example, our Art at Night events happening every Saturday through the month encourage slow wanders through the gallery spaces in your local neighbourhood.”

At Woolloomooloo gallery Artspace, guests will get an insight into the works of three acclaimed female artists, and at Gallery Lane Cove visitors will participate in a “clay date” ($50) where they will be guided in basic clay-shaping techniques and work together to create one clay sculpture as a group.

“Art Month Sydney has always been about celebrating what the gallerists and artists of our city do,” says O’Neill of the festival, which was launched in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. “Art galleries were among the last businesses allowed to reopen as Covid-19 restrictions eased. Yet in the past year, artists have continued to make works, exhibitions have continued to be presented (both online and IRL), and art enthusiasts have continued to engage in whatever way they can. We want to celebrate the resilience of Sydney’s creative community and encourage people who can’t move around as freely to explore the spaces on their doorstep.”

Art Month Sydney runs from March 4 until March 28, 2021, at various locations.