Here’s me with my result from the final Melting Pot session for the year, Episode no.7. Unlike the masks we’ve all been wearing over the past months, this one doesn’t have any antimicrobial properties at all. Perhaps even less than the spooky looking Plague doctors’ masks from the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries. These had beak-like structures that were filled with straw, herbs, essential oils of cloves, myrrh and other precious plants, to stave off ‘miasma‘. If I was to wear this down to my next cafe or supermarket trip, it might draw some disapproving looks. The mask (the medical version) has become a part of our social and personal policing – the dash back to the house to get a forgotten mask; the curious or even incredulous looks at people not wearing them in public places.
The Zoom Art Room has provided a good place to connect for socialising and creativity. While we’re weren’t able to meet in real life, we could feel the warmth of togetherness in the act of making. Our conversations are varied. Sometimes we’ve talked about isolation and loneliness. We’ve investigated the brain origins of creativity. We’ve considered how this withdrawal from society has consequences for our confidence.
Art making (or art practice) has the capacity to be a practical companionto our psyche. This active companion comes alongside the lives we live, allowing access to different forms of expression.
2021 beckons, are we brave enough to wade into it? I have nine large blank canvases waiting for the brushes – more painting is definitely on my resolutions list! Similarly, there are nine more, as-yet-unknown projects to evolve within the Live WELL-COME Share project that I’ve created, funded by VicHealth, and supported and managed by Baw Baw Shire Council. One day at a time…
VicHealth have awarded the Baw Baw Shire with an Everyday Creativity grant that will increase access to arts activities, among a wide cross section of the community. Arts & Health Gippsland will be managing the project, along with Karen Whitaker-Taylor, the Shire’s Cultural Development Officer.
To begin the work of this project while we are restricted in our community access face to face, Arts & Health Gippsland will host an online series called ‘The Melting Pot‘. In this series, we will:
🎨 try a creativity-sparking activity in a guided session;
🎨 take a look at an inspirational arts story from an historic or cultural perspective;
🎨 and we’ll finish up with a ‘show and tell’ – we can still make social connections even though we are in ‘lockdown’…
If you would like to be part of the free online series (to begin on the last Sunday in August), please add your name to our mailing list!
Once restrictions are lifted, the Live WELL COME Share project will begin the next phase of its work, based on the identification of small Creative Nodes – small groups of people in their geographic location – who will be led by an artist facilitator in an art-making project or series of sessions. The Creative Node participants will choose the type of medium and the project, assisted by their artist facilitator, and informed by a local person who has a long connection with the area. In this way, the participants (some who may be new to the area) can learn more about the land that they are a part of in their daily lives.
Arts & Health Gippsland director, Bec Vandyk, will guide each Artist facilitator and the participants of the node in creating short pieces of video footage of the art that is made (whatever the medium, whether visual or performing arts, or permanent or ephemeral arts), and/or the process of making the art. Bec will produce short films from each Creative node, and screen them online and in cafes, and regional library branches.
The Creative Nodes and their Work
Nodes will be chosen organically according to an expressed need by a community member or health worker (in conjunction with the Latrobe Community Health Service), specifically seeking out those who feel isolated;
Nodes will not run all at once, but be rolled out slowly – the first three nodes will run as ‘pilot’ projects, getting a feel for how best to make the concept work in the context, then other nodes, one or two at a time, will follow, over an approximately 12 month period;
Nodes will be a ‘no-cost’ or ‘low-cost’ activity for local community members (based on the chosen medium) with funding assistance to enable those with mobility needs;
Artist facilitators will be chosen through an Expression of Interest process, and hiring decisions based on each applicant’s prior experience in facilitating community-based activities, as well as their current art practice;
Artist facilitators will be paid for their time according to an agreed contract;
Artist facilitators will be trained in arts-for-health concepts, use of social media (if required), and will be provided mentoring support throughout the project;
Art facilitators will be encouraged to seek out a local knowledge-holder to inform their work within the Creative Node, and this process may be assisted by the project manager and/or local health and community workers;
The art-making process in each Creative Node will be facilitated by the project to fund, recycle, or source materials, tools, and/or other necessary resources for art-making;
The art will be used to create a visual record in the form of short pieces of video footage, which will be compiled and curated by the Project Manager with the advice and assistance of the Artist facilitator in each Creative Node.
Throughout the course of the project, the small films will be screened in public places across the Baw Baw shire and further afield in conjunction with the West Gippsland Regional Library Corporation. The Library will also have a limited ability to act as a depository for some elements of the art-making processes, and to some extent and for a limited time, some of the artworks themselves. This will serve the purpose of local place-making, but may also spark further interest in the project, to further identify community members who may desire or could benefit from social connection.