Railway crossing

One of the things I like about my suburb is the proximity to trains

It's wild how diesel locomotives cross the road on the way to the supermarket and surprising there are no level crossing boom gates.

The train blasts the airhorns and pushes into the traffic, because who is going to argue with one of these colossal carriages?

Australian culture

It was Tuesday 8 June 2021 when I met Ken Dray, Senior Policy Lead, Policy & Partnerships for Create NSW

Western Riverina Arts had invited a group of locals to a discussion in the Leeton Museum and I asked why sport and the arts were often presented as opposites, when they clearly have so much in common and are united as being cultural activities. 

Ken thought only France had a Ministry of Culture that housed both. 

Anyway, I was thinking about that conversation now we have the NSW Department of Creative Industries, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport. 

Australian culture is sometimes presented as a joke, but I think it's significant that we are the meeting point between the oldest continuous culture recorded in human history and one of the newest, as well as most multicultural.

Many people are surprised when I point out that the Western Riverina region is the most diverse community outside of western Sydney.

My worry is that "creative industries" is too often presented as services like graphic design.

Everyone benefits from engaging with the arts and it needs to be recognised as something more significant than some form of consumption like reading a book, watching a film or buying a souvenir.

Justice for all

"Social justice" is a term in my school reference from the end of Year 12

At the time I was the Chair of the School Board at Lake Tuggeranong College and had lent support to promote various concerns that included seeing condom-vending machines installed in toilets. It's interesting in hindsight that the assistant principal who wrote the reference identified that quality as it has continued to be part of my activities in various communities from lobbying and campaigning through to informing my creative practices.

Over the last decade I've been based in the town of Leeton and put some of my energy toward raising concerns for the benefit of everyone, as well as demonstrating a passion for teaching. I have volunteered my time to campaign for improved services based on the need for equality, particularly in health services and education.

As part of a small group I drew attention to the shortcomings of the local hospital, which is often without a doctor on duty. This included generating media interest and also chairing a public meeting that drew an audience of over 100 people to the neighbouring town of Yanco, as well as elected representatives from the three levels of government. That led me to volunteer my time during elections to support candidates addressing issues of public health, as well as distributing materials to improve funding for public education after the Gonski Review.

There have been various opportunities to share my knowledge and experience with the community. One of my first initiatives while working as a Corporate Communications Manager for Leeton Shire Council was to develop digital capacity in the community, including workshops to assist businesses in getting online (some tourism operators didn't have email at that time) and also demonstrating digital media techniques through workshops. The latter included showing photo-manipulation to children as a school holiday activity at the library and led to developing workshops supported by the regional arts board in using free software for editing digital media.

My skills in developing communications have been part of working in various roles to support community groups and, in turn, has led me to be a founding member of Red Earth Ecology. This organisation provides support to curate exhibitions that raise environmental concerns, as well as being a way to promote the benefits of engaging with art. As a not-for-profit we have used the funds generated through our activities to sponsor a photography competition currently exhibiting, and the Ngurambang exhibition at Griffith Regional Art Gallery last year included a series of presentations to high school students about historical and environmental themes including colonialism and geology.

My experience in producing exhibitions led me to work as a curator in a community museum, where I have found opportunities to engage locals and improve the representation of First Nations history through displays about topics such as Murray Cod and pandemics. I am currently assisting with a projection-based public outcome with the Bioluminescence Project that will focus on the environment through manipulating digital media.

Finally, I think it shows that my interests have aligned in my role as Community Representative for the Griffith Base Hospital Arts Working Group. In this position I have agitated for various outcomes, such as ensuring communities throughout the region have been consulted and that local artists can be considered commissions, gain experience and contribute to the permanent displays.  

This is a statement prepared for a recent application and I thought I may as well post it here as well.

Recent project

The next exhibition in the Griffith Regional Theatre’s Artspace will showcase local photography and an historic occasion when it opens on Monday 24 June 2024

Featuring entrants from the Griffith Pioneer Park Museum’s 2024 Action Day photography competition, these photos from visitors on the day capture this beloved community event.

“Around 3,000 people enjoyed the day and it was one of the biggest Action Days in recent years,” said Griffith City Mayor Doug Curran.

Traditionally held on the Friday before Easter, since 1971 the Griffith Pioneer Park Museum Action Day has seen the old machinery in action, and the displays that celebrate the history of the region brought to life.

Attendees this year were invited to take photos of the Action Day, and dozens of these images capturing various activities will now be exhibited as part of a competition that will be decided by votes from visitors to the exhibition.

Prizes were sponsored by Red Earth Ecology, a not-for-profit artist-led environmental organisation, who are keen to encourage everyone to engage with the Museum’s significant role in the Riverina landscape.

The Under 18 Category winner has already been announced, being James Favero.

The photographers competing in the Open section include Simone Borg, Emma Kenny, Neil McAliece, Sarah McCorkelle, PJ Lale and John Samuel.

The images have already found an appreciative audience among the staff and volunteers who worked during Action Day.

“We’re so busy focusing on the event that we often don’t get a chance to see all of the attractions,” said exhibition curator and Pioneer Park Museum staff member Dianne Silvester.

“It’s wonderful to see so many people having a great time.”

Theatre manager Marg Andreazza said, “We love using Artspace to exhibit local artists, and this particular exhibition is great because it features photos of a much-loved local event, taken by local people,” Ms Andreazza said.

The Action Day Photography Competition Exhibition will be on public exhibition from Monday 24 June until Friday 16 August with winners notified after it closes. 

Switching gears

Recently saw this observation about writing and thought it's something that extends to many creative pursuits

"Recklessness and rigor" is one way to identify those flow and critique processes, which can be seen to embody first and latter drafts in writing. 

It's something that Michael Stavrou addresses in his book Mixing With Your Mind and he frames these as left and right brain activities.

While this metaphor doesn't do justice to the way our brains operate, it is a really insightful discussion for the proposal that creative people benefit from grouping likeminded tasks.

For example, if you're writing and in a state of flow, then the process can be disrupted by needing to open a dictionary and find the appropriate word.

Someone like Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way, I think, would likely say to keep writing -- even if it's just repeating the word until the sense of flow returns.

That's the kind of recklessness one can indulge while writing a first draft, before returning at a later time with a more critical perspective to finesse those words with the rigor required for publication.

And I think there's a similar distraction from producing work when a person begins second-guessing what they should be doing, although that is likely more akin to Sartre's notion of "being for others".

Best cheese lately

Thought I should balance my negativity about those Twisties by sharing my enthusiasm for sheep cheese

This has been a favourite in recent months and I was happy to find it half-price at the stupormarket.

I am so grateful to live in an age when truffle has become so plentiful.  

(You can find it flavouring chips!)

And cheese is so often wonderful.