Friday, September 30, 2011

The StreetNet Murray Urban Arts Project

Thanks, Jess Vati Youth Support Worker from StreetNet - George Street Hub - Pinjarra, for the invitation to be involved as an artist/mentor in this exciting and very rewarding project.

(L to R) Jess, Won Ling, Jahna, Emily, Denise, Kaya, Catlin, Katelyn, Zoe and Katie

Over an 10 week period, commencing 10th May, a series of Youth Art design and painting workshops were held at the George Street Hub of StreetNet.  Each Tuesday afternoon from 3:30 pm till 6:00pm a group of enthusiastic and highly talented young people 12-15 years came together to create some amazing artworks and pick-up some new art making skills along the way.

In the Beginning........................................aah yes! that's right, start at the beginning and finish at the end....................

OK, participants were introduced to a range of urban and traditional art materials including spray paint, marker pens and acrylic paint with the aim to design and paint an artwork of their choice on a piece of 900mm X 600mm signboard.   The only criteria was the designs would need to be positive and no advertising logos.................the rest was up to the artists. 

 Participants working on their designs

The workshop environment was established to encourage the creative process and provide stimulus for the artists.  During each workshop  a different Urban/Graffiti/Street Art film was shown on a laptop (set up at the end of the tables) with the movie soundtracks providing an interesting mix of music.

The movies shown included:
  • Graffiti Instincts 
  • Alterego - A worldwide Documentary about Graffiti writing
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Style Wars
  • Basquiat -1996
  • Jean Michael Basquiat - The Radiant Child
and just to mix it up a little .........Who the #@*! is Jackson Pollock

The movies also provided a good point of release and inspiration to design, draw and paint.  They also helped to instigate conversation about urban/street and graffiti art.  The films provided an excellent reference to style, attitude and place.  The Basquiat films were interesting especially in light of one being a documentary with real characters, whilst the other involved actors.  

The workshop process was divided into distinct stages.  With the completion of each stage the participants were able to better understand the value of developing a disciplined approach to their art making.  The process also highlighted the importance of drawing as the foundation of the creative process.  Firstly, each person developed a pencil image on A4 size paper, then introduced color and finally scaled up their image onto paper of an approximate size to the signboard.  This allowed the artists to explore greater detail, work out design issues and to better access what worked and didn't in their artworks before committing to paint.  Once the initial design and development stage was completed the artists translated their colour scheme in spray paints and used a range of techniques for the background of their piece, this included feathered spray edging, flat coverage, thin line work, cut stencil, found object stencil and spray splatter.

More traditional painting techniques were subsequently layered over the top of the spray base using acrylic paints and then detail markings were applied with marker pens.

Emily busy on her artwork

Katelyn working on her piece

Katie putting some paint down

 Kaya doing some pen work

Won Ling painting

Towards the end of the program Jess organised a trip to the Perth metro area to view some urban art pieces.  The day was a great opportunity for the young people to see some fantastic examples of commissioned pieces.  It also highlighted the real potential of their art to develop into a source of income.

Jahna giving his approval to a top piece at Headquarters Leederville - Perth

The final images produced by the artists in the program were varied and exciting, with each displaying a unique style.  The adage ........the more you exhibit your work the more familiar it becomes and once that happens more people accept it and then it becomes desirable and then people buy it................. hmmmm so that's what happens in the artworld?   Yep,  the artist sets the agenda by what they produce and by staying consistent and becoming familiar.  Oh yeah! a little bit of luck also helps.






Won Ling


The Murray Urban Arts Project was very successful.  At the conclusion of the program we all had pizzas and were able to talk about and assess the program.  Participants were asked where they wanted to go next in terms of their art and being involved in future activities.  All participants were very keen and expressed their desire to continue to be involved.  There was strong interest for a future project that took their involvement and artistic skills to another level.  Over the 10 weeks all participants had come to know one another and to appreciate the skills and contribution each had to offer.  It seemed logical that they consider a different type of painting project, one that allowed them to combine their artistic skills by working in collaboration.  A larger format mural was regarded as an excellent way to achieve their ambition.  This would allow the artists to explore the use of signboard as mural panels.  The increased size would provide an ideal opportunity to develop a theme and to expand their use of paint and marker pens with greater detail.

In response Jess began making enquiries regarding funding opportunities and partnerships.  There is a possibility of attracting ALCOA World Alumina and Country Arts WA funding for an ongoing project, however this time the participants will be in full control of how the project is developed and delivered.   In effect they will determine the scope of the project and what they want to achieve.  They would also help to make the funding applications.  Jess and myself will be there to guide them through the process.   I hope it happens........ It promises to be an exciting time ahead.

This project has been proudly supported by:


 Peel Community Development Group

The Office of Crime Prevention

PS Jess is in the process of planning an exhibition of the artworks at the local Alcoa Murray Library.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Living Histories project completion and summary

The Living Histories Project 2010/11 
Wow, the project is completedThis Blog post is a summary of what happened during the project.  As a point of interest I've posted the response to the funding acquittal questions required by Community Arts Network WA in an effort to demonstrate the scope of project achievementSome of the photos have been posted previously.

Living Histories  - A Celebration of Culture 
   The Living Histories Serpentine Heritage and Culture Trail project was first discussed in 2008, over 2 1/2 half years ago, and was initially developed in consultation with Ewing Arts and the Serpentine Historical Society.  The original intent of the project was primarily focused upon the Serpentine cemetery, however after consultation, it was agreed that the intent would need to be expanded in order to successfully attract the necessary funding required to realise the project.  This was an important consideration early in the development of the project, and highlighted two factors, firstly any expansion of the project would need to be achievable within the time and resource constraints of the Historical Society, and secondly, a pragmatic project structure would need to be formulated that provided multiple opportunities for community members of Serpentine to be involved in any or all aspects of the project.
These key factors combined to establish a working foundation from which the project could be further developed and in careful consideration and recognition of these factors the scope of the project was established

The project employed two lead artists (Gloria Kearing and Robert Ewing) as cross cultural community development professionals and Karrie–Anne Kearing Salmon (indigenous cultural advisor) to facilitate comprehensive consultation and participation with community members from the regional town of Serpentine in the design, development and making of the Serpentine Heritage and Culture Trail/public artworks. 

Karrie–Anne in collaboration with the Council of Traditional Land Owners and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, assisted the project with information of Aboriginal cultural value.
Research was undertaken to confirm Nyungar cultural links to the locality of Serpentine with particular emphasis upon the Serpentine Cemetery.  The cemetery contains a number of very old indigenous and non-indigenous grave sites.  In respect to other sites of traditional Nyungar cultural importance, several localities were confirmed within the wider area of the Serpentine district; the Serpentine River being of particular importance due to its’ close proximity to the cemetery and town of Serpentine.
The historical Serpentine cemetery contains a number of very old indigenous and non-indigenous grave sites; it has also been designated as "Bush Forever site 371" in recognition of its remnant vegetation and diverse indigenous flora. The cemetery was utilised as the catalyst to underpin community connectedness with the project and to provide the foundation and starting point for a broader community enquiry into the Serpentine cultural identity. Community enquiry was centred within a cross cultural context and explored the cultural and historical significance of the cemetery and other Serpentine locations. 

Project participation was promoted to all Serpentine community members through the utilisation of a local newspaper article about the project that included a photo of Serpentine Primary School students participating in a design workshop, and a schedule depicting community workshop times, venues and dates.  A project flyer was also posted in the windows of several local business including the Serpentine General Store, The Rural Fringe Hairdressers and Opportunity/Bric-a-Brac Store situated in Wellard St, the main street of town.
Particular emphasis was placed upon engaging our local youth in an extensive series of free design, development and art making workshops over a 6 month period, commencing mid October 2010. The workshops were conducted at the Serpentine CWA Hall, Serpentine PCYC building and Serpentine Primary School.

Community consultation, design and development:

An extensive series of community consultation workshops commenced in September 2010 and was completed over a 6 month period.  The design and development workshops sought to engage the participation of past and present Serpentine community members, including youth from Serpentine PCYC and all year 1 -7 students of Serpentine Primary School.

An informal and verbal approach was utilised by the facilitators during the workshop process with participants asked to respond to the following questions:
  • Do you have deceased family /friends residing at the cemetery? 
  • Do you regard the cemetery as a special place? 
  • What type of artwork materials do you think best suit the cemetery locality? 
  • What are special qualities of Serpentine and its’ environs? 
  • What should the artwork content be?

Gloria showing Year 1 student some bush medicines and tuckers found in the vicinity of the cemetery
To assist the students in better understanding the environmental values of the cemetery Gloria presented examples of a number of traditional Aboriginal bush medicines and tuckers growing within the Serpentine Cemetery and town environs and explained their uses.  The plants included Bourn – a slender and sometimes tall (above 1mt) bulbous plant with a stem similar to an orchid.  The plant is believed to contain anti-cancer qualities and has been traditionally used in the treatment of body and stomach pain.  Students were also shown a live Bardi grub and learnt how to identify them in their habitat.
Lilly, Umm....................that smells like Eucalyptus

Cameron, Hmm..........I think you are right!

Wow .............a bush fig flower.
A short film titled “Karla” (meaning fire in the Nyungar language) was then shown to the students.  The film served to highlight traditional Nyungar culture and the cross cultural importance of the cemetery.  Several students expressed they have family and relatives whose deceased remains now reside in the cemetery, their sentiments reinforced the sacred nature and importance of the cemetery. 

Orleans busy at work on her design

Jessica and Chelsea, working together on their designs

Bryce and Liam, Taking time out for a photo opportunity

Rachael and Kate busy translating their great ideas to paper

Taylah and Jesse

George and Caleb

Justine and Jessika
Students were paired-up and given the challenge of incorporating their designs onto a single tile.  This created a creative challenge with some students choosing to make clear divisions of the tile and restricted their designs to within these defined areas.  Others chose a more organic approach and integrated their images together, often forming new and exciting compositions. 
 Austin and Matt

Brooke and Bree

Carmeron and Stirling

Serpentine PCYC Workshops
During the week preceding Mark Warner (PCYC President) had spent some time informing all interested youth about the project, building up interest and enthusiasm, and when we arrived for the first workshop everyone was quite excited and eager to be involved. 
After our initial introduction to the project, two entertaining and highly dramatic short films were presented that featured traditional and contemporary local Nyungar stories.  The films provided participants with new knowledge, helping them to consider the project within a cross cultural context and to better appreciate Nyungar cultural connections to the region.
TJ, Alex and Clark discussing this thing called art making

CWA HALL Workshops
The CWA Hall workshops were completed and provided an excellent opportunity to meet community members and listen to their stories.  Whilst the design and making of artworks remained the primary focus of the workshops, all were encouraged to share their knowledge and stories of Serpentine.
It was inevitable that many stories where to evoke nostalgic memories of a town and time that seemed less urgent and more relaxed than it appears today.  Whilst some stories told were whimsical others served as a poignant and timely reminder of the need to consider the sensitivities of the wider community in the design and making of the artworks.
Workshops participants were introduced to the process of hand painting bisque fired ceramic tiles with a selection of under-glazes and many wonderful images were produced.  The collective local knowledge, history and advice demonstrated by the participants was tremendous and provided an exceptional resource base for artwork content.

 Dawn, Trevor, Myra and Mark painting ceramic tiles with under glazes under the watchful eye of Gloria
The consultative process generated much discussion with community members.  Primary concerns included the need for the artwork to be subtle and expressive of cultural identity, history and the natural environment.  Other considerations included the visual impact and function of the artworks within the cemetery environment?  What was the role or purpose of the artworks?  How were they to reflect the intrinsic qualities of the location and echo the sensitivities of the community?  All these aspects were carefully considered within the context of how they could be integrated in contemporary artwork best suited to the area.
The community workshops generated the source material for the design and making of the public artworks, celebrating indigenous and non-indigenous historical and cultural values.

 Athol, Dawn,Gloria, Trevor, Don and Strelley

The project successfully expressed local culture and identity.  This was achieved through the community consultative process, whereby community members determined the content, location and purpose of the artworks.  An important aspect of the community workshops was the exploration of identified sites and their place within the contemporary community conscience. The community workshops explored and highlighted the interconnectedness of cultural diversity within the community and its contribution to the development of the town of Serpentine. Oral histories of community members were translated and integrated into celebratory community artworks.  Workshop participants explored how the identified elements of cultural and historical significance could be incorporated into artworks and how those artworks would function in an interpretive context.
Mark painting a tile
Over 100 ceramic hand-painted tiles were produced by community members. The hand-painted tiles are to be incorporated into the Eastern and Western ends of the South facing area of the Niche Wall.  Additionally, there is potential to incorporate the tiles into existing sites including interpretive plaques within the town environs.

The North facing aspect of the Niche Wall was regarded as the ideal place for the installation of artworks. Robust, durable and minimal maintenance are regarded as essential with “Corten” Steel being the preferred material due to its Patina colouring, strength and durability. The artworks are fixed flush with the wall to ensure minimal maintenance is required.
The overwhelming consensus of community members stated “Pre and Post Settlement” as the preferred theme, with the central Niche Wall gateway being the delineating point.  Pre-settlement to the East and post-settlement to the West. Text was also considered an important element to be incorporated into the artworks. The preferred source of text was identified as local poetry and prose, together with selected phrases from the gravestones within the cemetery. The text was carefully integrated into floral artworks and placed on either side of the Niche Wall gateway entrance.

Images in keeping with the theme and of a realistic quality were the preferred content. Pre Settlement content to include images of Natural Flora and Fauna with specific emphasis upon species found in the locality of the Cemetery. Identified species included, Blue Leschenaultia, Flowering Red Gums, Red and White Tailed Black Cockatoos and Bob Tailed Goannas. There was strong support for the inclusion of a natural scene depicting the fresh water pools of the Serpentine Falls. Post Settlement content to include images of introduced flora and fauna including the Rose and farming animals with specific emphasis upon the Dairy Cow, Horse and beef cattle.  The inclusion of a farming scene depicting early buildings, citrus orchards, dairy farming and timber cutting (pit saw scene).

Project lead artist Rob Ewing had the pleasure of meeting Mrs Midge Richardson of Lowlands Farm - Serpentine and was shown early images of local pit sawing activity, told of pit locations along the Serpentine that can still be found today and shown an incredible selection of early farming tools and equipment including several pit saw blades.

Subtle contemporary Nyungar design was carefully incorporated into certain elements, adding a refined sensibility, nuance and appeal to the artwork.  All these aspects were considered and artwork designs were developed and presented to the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale Cemetery committee, Serpentine Historical Society membership and the project steering committee for comment and endorsement.

The project steering committee included
  • Mrs Myra Baldwin – Serpentine resident and Secretary of the Serpentine Historical Society Inc,
  • Ms Julie Sansom - Community Development Officer - Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale,
  • Mr Mark Warner - President, Serpentine PCYC,
  • Alex Warner - Youth representative, Serpentine PCYC
  • Mr Athol Wigg - Serpentine resident and representative of the Serpentine Historical Society Inc,
  • Mr Trevor Senior - Serpentine resident and President of the Serpentine Historical Society Inc,
  • Mrs Karrie-Anne Kearing – Indigenous Cultural Advisor  
The project supported the values of respect, creativity and resilience.  Project participants reflected the wider community of Serpentine, including young primary school children, youth, and seniors. 

Each community member contribution whether it be a hand painted ceramic tile or an idea for inclusion as artwork content added to the scope and integrity of the project.  All contributions were encouraged and considered equally and without prejudice.  The final artworks successfully reflect the input of community members.

 Artists Gloria Kearing and Robert Ewing
     The installed artworks on the Serpentine Cemetery Niche wall have successfully established a foundation for an on-going design and art making process.  They add significantly to the amenity of the cemetery by combining visual appeal with cultural and historical recognition. 

Whilst the Niche wall artworks are very successful, they also present a unique problem and opportunity as they are in jeopardy of being isolated and regarded as ad-hoc without the enhancement of further artworks.
This was a major consideration throughout the project and generated much community discussion.  Although complementary artworks were outside the scope of the original project budget, they were deemed to be an essential requirement for achieving an overall aesthetic integration with the Serpentine environment. 

It was especially important given the opportunities such sculptural installations provide in the expression of theme and reoccurring motif.  It is important that the Cemetery Niche Wall artworks do not become isolated, but rather be unified through the creative placement of other key artworks at identified locations within the cemetery and Serpentine environs.  Complementary artworks present an exceptional opportunity for the lead artists and community members to collaborate in a deeper exploration of content and aesthetic, as they seek to expand the scope of interpretive theme and reoccurring motif through historical and cultural narrative. It also provides the opportunity to capture the momentum and interest that has been generated within the community and to utilise that enthusiasm to create more pervasive creative outcomes. 

 TK (Theo Kearing) playing didge at the project celebration

There is overwhelming community support for complementary artworks.  Their realisation of requires the securing of additional funding that would provide the resources for their design and making.  These artworks would be pivotal in bringing community aspiration for multiple interrelated artworks to fruition.  Complementary artworks would ensure the initial Living Histories artworks do not remain isolated or regarded as ad-hoc, but function rather as important components in a larger, integrated community initiative that provides a cohesive and successfully achieved conclusion.
  • Who were the communities? 
         The Rural community of Serpentine in the Peel region
  • How many people took part? 
          Approximately 230
  • Who coordinated the project? 
          Robert Ewing 
  • Who provided the artistic and cultural development skills? 
         Gloria Kearing and Robert Ewing 

  The project was promoted through:
  • The use of local Examiner newspaper (community interest article)
  • An outline of the project and workshop schedule was included in the Serpentine Primary School newsletter
  • Project flyers were posted in the front windows of local businesses
  • Photographs were taken of participants throughout the duration of the project, depicting their involvement in all aspects of the project
  •  A project WWW Blog was established and maintained throughout the duration of the project.  
The scope of local participation was deemed to be the benchmark factor in determining  the success of the project.   Throughout the community workshop aspect of the project an informal process of evaluation was utilised, whereby participants were asked their views on the project, what we hoped to achieve and their enthusiasm for participation.
The result has been a great success with many productive workshops and a solid number of participants benefiting through their involvement in all aspects of the project.
The response and enthusiasm from community workshop participants was unexpected, with so many ideas, stories and information being shared it became obvious that not all could be achieved within the original scope of the project.  General consensus agreed that completing artworks of excellence was the primary focus of the project and in recognition a strategy was formulated that would allow for the making of artworks that could be achieved within the original project budget and time frame. 
All agreed that it was more desirable to achieve fewer artworks of excellence rather than spreading the project budget too thinly by trying to achieve too much.  A scale of priority was established based upon the viewing potential and cultural prominence of various key locations.
The success of the project is best summed up by the comments of community members at the celebration of the artwork installation ………………they look wonderful………………I thought they would be bigger, but now looking at them they are just right, subtle……… Yes, they look good……………….it was a long time since we first talked about these artworks, it’s very good to see them finally here……….
The project successfully achieved the short term goal of engaging local community members in the design, development and making of the artworks.  The project uncovered several community members that are keen to be involved in any future developments of the project.  The discovery of local artistic talent and creative skills is an exciting outcome and will add significant value to the realisation of complementary artworks.  These are short term outcomes that have the potential to generate important long term benefits. 
Due to the limited scope of the cemetery site for expansion, it will have reached its capacity within the foreseeable future.  A replacement site has already been identified and with the passing of time the artworks will become intrinsically linked with the cemetery within an historical context.  Whenever and how long that process takes, there remains the fact that the artworks will always continue to function as a reflection of community sensitivities.  Remaining as lasting expressions of community cultural identity, heritage and cultural values.  They will continue to be a positive reminder of the creative role we all have to play in the expression of our community.

 Artists Rob Ewing and Gloria Kearing posing for a photo op!

What next?

The Serpentine Historical Society has been successful in gaining Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale Locality funding support for a second stage of the project. Additional funding applications have been made to Community Arts Network WA, Country Arts WA, Department of Culture and the Arts and Lotterywest seeking support for Stage 2. The initial Living Histories project has generated a lot of interest and highlighted what can be achieved with continued funding support.   Success in the applications for funding Stage 2 will allow for the full scope of community ambition to be achieved.   The project is planned to commence January 2012 and end late July 2012.  I'll post the progress as it this space!

The Living Histories Project 2010/11 is a community initiative of the Serpentine Historical Society Inc and made possible by funding support from:

The Department of Culture and the Arts
Community Arts Network WA

Country Arts WA


and community support from the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale, Serpentine PCYC, Serpentine Primary School and the Serpentine CWA .