Griffith creative arts alumnus Louise Bezzina has been named Gold Coast Woman of the Year.

Ms Bezzina, who graduated from Griffith University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Applied Theatre, was recognised for her role in transforming the city’s cultural scene as founder and artistic director of the popular Bleach* Festival.

The inaugural awards were the brainchild of Gold Coast Bulletin Editor Rachel Hancock, who said the calibre of the entries had been extremely high.

“We have been blown away by the calibre of women who were nominated for these awards.”

After graduating from Griffith, Ms Bezzina quickly made a name for herself as a visionary artistic director, pulling together the Mackay Festival and producing work for the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts before founding Bleach* Festival on the Gold Coast.

Next year, she will continue her meteoric rise, becoming the first female artistic director of the Brisbane Festival.

Louise told the Gold Coast Bulletin that Bleach* Festival had helped change perceptions of the Gold Coast.

“The Gold Coast was seen as a place that didn’t produce a lot of arts and culture, but that’s changed,” she said.

“The number of local artists now living on the Gold Coast has dramatically increased.”

Griffith has just signed a three-year partnership with Bleach* Festival, which has attracted close to 1 million people since its inception in 2012.

The centrepiece of this year’s festival will be a blockbuster outdoor performance of Verdi’s Requiem, featuring students from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University.

Talented musicians from the Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra will work alongside a full cast from Opera Queensland for a spectacular concert under the stars at the Home of the Arts (HOTA) on 27 April.

Griffith University Deputy Vice Chancellor (Engagement), Professor Martin Betts, said the partnership with Bleach* Festival would provide a remarkable opportunity for students involved in the creative arts at Griffith.

“Griffith has been recognised as the number one creative arts university in Australia,” he said.

“Our partnership with Bleach* Festival gives our students absolute access and participation in a world-class event.”

Ms Bezzina, a proud Griffith alumnus, said the partnership would provide opportunities for students across the university, from marketing and events management to urban planning.

“We are thrilled that Griffith University is on board as our major partner over the next three years,” she said.

“It’s more than just a logo on a program, it will provide great practical outcomes for students, from performance opportunities and internships.”