A good news story

In Part 2 of this series Elders, artists and staff from three Aboriginal community controlled art centres share their perspectives on why art centres play such a vital role for them and their communities, and keep older artists strong.

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Video Transcript

Art Centres Keep Our Elders Strong: A Good News Story

Voiceover: There are about 90 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled art centres across Australia. Art centres are the hub of community life, they support artists, and the Elders are the foundation of the art centre. Art centres bring generations together, for everyone to learn from each other by sharing stories of culture, Country and kin, and keeping them alive for the future. Art centres are all different but they all do these things and this is a celebration of three of them.

Art Centres Keep Our Elders Strong: A Good News Story [Title]

Sonia Kurarra singing in Walmajarri

Japeth Rangi, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: The older people like to come to Mangkaja, to do their painting, their art and their Country and to show us young people how they used to live in the desert and teaching us how to paint, telling us the stories, old people used to tell us.

Belinda Cook, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: The art centre is a support hub for everybody. People come in here to paint and to create their artwork and to record their stories. But we're a lot more than that in the sense that everyone comes in here first to have their breakfast, to talk about what's happened overnight, to talk about the care and support that they need, firstly, to be able to create artwork to be able to enjoy the space and use the studio. So our studio is a safe space. It's a space where people can come and relax and be social. Our artists are our board, are our membership. They govern what we do. They govern how we operate. So it's always driven by the community, by the artists themselves.

Jennifer Dickens, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency:  Everybody loves coming to Mangkaja when they come here they say ‘I feel real peace in this building’. It makes them real happy and they enjoy it. Painting and they come here and just sit down and sometimes I just sit with them and they usually tell me stories them old people. How they came out of the desert and how they lived by the river.     

Lynley Nargoodah, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: They see it as a safe place where they can come here and just relax, you know they don't have to paint. They can just have a feed and lay down. When they come here, they know what they're doing, so it's their routine. They'll have breakfast and then they'll sit down and want to finish off a painting and tell stories.

Maree Meredith, Flinders University: The art centre is a good place, it's a place where people come to be happy in the midst of a lot of chaos and crisis. The art centre is a place where people feel safe. It's a place where people can have meals. It's a place where people can come to have a shower. It’s a place where people can do their washing, and at the same time, it's a place that makes money for people and their families. So in that regard, it's a very special model. It has the cultural, the social, as well as the economic that come together in a holistic way.

Nisa Richy, Ikuntji Artists: The art centre’s a community hub. It's a place for everyone and you get men and women, all different age groups like some days, you'll have like three or four generations painting together in a room. I really love working here because every day is different. It's unpredictable, you meet all these different people, building relationships every day over a long time. It's really special. Part of my job is assisting the artists with day to day stuff, like calling the clinic to get medication, calling home care to come pick someone up or bring them in, even helping people with simple tasks. Even some artists ask my help to bring them to the toilet, that kind of stuff. Lots of different ways we support people.

Chrischona Schmidt, Ikuntji Artists: There was an expectation that the art centre looks after old people, but in what way was never really made clear. That starts from the expectation to pick people up on a daily basis and drop them off back home, as well as if we go on bush trips, organising special carers and paying for them and having disabled portable toilets with us. And you know, there's all these kinds of things that are taken for granted that we should be doing.

Michelle Young, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: When you form really personal relationships in the course of the work that we do, you get to understand and know people very well, and we can often be quite highly attuned to changes that people might be experiencing in their well-being and health. And so we can often refer to other services issues that we see with artists in their decline in their cognitive function or their mobility.

Nisa Richy, Ikuntji Artists: We all know each other in community, aged care, clinic workers, everyone, we all kind of work together and communicate about the older artists, what they need. Everyone knows where they are.

Lynley Nargoodah, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: It's a good thing because the old people, I think in all old people homes tend to get forgotten and for them to come here and paint, it's like mentally they're going home when they paint. Yeah, physically, they are not able to, but mentally they're already home and painting Country.

Belinda Cook, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: We were selected by the curator Clothilde Bullen to include a group of women from Mangkaja to continue their practice with perspex. It showcases to them how important the work that they're doing is. I think sometimes family just think, ‘oh Mum paints, and that's really nice’. But getting to see it on that scale and the impact it has and the response it gets from public really lifts everyone's pride and sense of what they're doing and why the art centre exists.

Michelle Young, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: Art centres are really strong places for older people to be respected and valued, and they contribute fully to the economy and families, and they also contribute a wealth of information that informs the artwork.

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