Art to assist affected communities

This award-winning piece from Art Show Pakenham in 2018 demonstrates how art can have a positive impact in the wake of natural disasters. The magnificent piece came about by a collaboration between Living Learning Pakenham and the Department of Justice and Regulation and was painted by seven artists under the tutelage of Rob Matheson (pictured with Art Show Pakenham's Jillian Ronald). It won the prise for best entry depicting Cardinia Shire's 150th anniversary and now hangs in the Pakenham CFA headquarters.

By Mitchell Clarke

Artists living within the local government areas of Cardinia, Baw Baw and Latrobe are being asked to put their creativity to the test, sought to work alongside affected communities impacted by the 2019 bushfires in the Bunyip State Park, Walhalla and South Yinnar areas.

Three artists from each government area will be selected by the Creative Recovery Network to engage with local communities, businesses and groups to identify a potential project or initiative.

Artists will receive recognised training in physiological and mental first aid, emergency management and facilitating community meetings to help prepare them for engaging with the communities or individuals who have been affected by fire.

The rewarding project will be led by the Creative Recovery Network’s lead mentor Amanda Gibson, who has significant experience working alongside bushfire affected communities.

She led ‘The Tree Project’, which saw a group of blacksmiths collaborate to forge a metal tree which honoured the people who lost their lives during the 2009 bushfires.

This project had a lasting impact and included contributions from local and international artists, eventually becoming the subject of the documentary ‘Forged from Fire’.

“Creativity is a potent catalyst for social connection, compassion and ultimately resilience,” Ms Gibson said.

“This program is about sustainable community building and creative resilience – to have locally based people who have the skills and understanding to pick up community stories and aspirations and produce meaningful and transformative work.

“If we can train people to fulfil that role, this will have a profound effect on the resilience and the connectiveness of those communities.”

Recruitment of the nine artists forms the first of a three-phase process for the development, with the implementation and showcasing of creative recovery projects across the region taking place over the next two years.

It is anticipated that the chosen artists will remain part of the ongoing program post this first phase engagement.

Cardinia Shire Council mayor Jeff Springfield encouraged artists from all mediums to apply for the roles.

“This project will provide an opportunity for local artists to bring the community together to creatively tell their stories and create a platform for reflection and commemoration of the Bunyip Complex fires,” Cr Springfield said.

Baw Baw Shire mayor Danny Goss added: “This is a rare opportunity for local artists across the three regions to take part in impactful creative recovery with a lasting legacy for their communities.”

The program is facilitated by Creative Recovery Network in partnership with Baw Baw Shire Council, Cardinia Shire Council, Latrobe City Council and Lifeline Gippsland.

Creative Recovery Network is a specialist service provider and advocate for culture and the arts within the emergency management sector.Interested artists are invited to apply before 12pm on Friday 14 February. For more information, visit the Creative Recovery Network website.

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