Art with heart

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Ballarat UnitingCare’s collaborative art project, Under the Floorboards, will soon culminate with a full scale exhibition and black-tie gala event.

Throughout 2013 the unique UnitingCare project commissioned an array of artists to work alongside various community support programs the agency is involved with.

Painters, filmmakers, playwrights and artists working in other mediums have undertaken month-long residencies in places such as Op Shops, rooming houses, aged care and mental health facilities to produce an impressive body of work.

“They’ve painted and sculpted and written plays and children’s books – they’ve worked in all different mediums and parts of the agency,” Ballarat UnitingCare CEO Cliff Barclay said.

Whilst noting some initial trepidation about undertaking the creative project, Mr Barclay said the end result has enriched the work of the agency and its connections in the community.
“We weren’t sure how it would go in terms of the agency, clients and artist working together,” he said.

“But we’ve actually found we have a lot in common – artists tend to value other things more highly than money. Most people working and volunteering in the community services industry share these values.”

Local artist Anne Langdon spent a month-long residency in local UnitingCare Op Shops.

“Most of the people I worked with were volunteers. I worked hard taking lots of photos and speaking with people – really trying to get to know them,” Ms Langdon said.
“I found it really inspiring to meet these amazing people. One volunteer said ‘we’re all here for a reason – whether it’s for the social aspect of volunteering or the desire to help people in the local community’.”

Much of Ms Langdon’s artworks (pictured right) depict the eclectic nature of Op Shops.

“I wanted to create polished works and have people respond to them and really celebrate Op Shops and the people who give their time to run them,” Ms Langdon said. 12_Kim-Anderson
As with a UnitingCare-operated rooming house, featured in another contributing artist’s play, the agency’s residential care facilities are often unheard of in the wider community or, worse, might have a poor reputation.

Kim Anderson is a Ballarat-based artist who spent time in several of the agency’s residential care units.

“I loved the idea of UnitingCare involving artists in what they do and being able to explore this side of society that often people aren’t aware of,” Ms Anderson said.

“Some of the people who live there have some kind of mental disability. Some are alcohol and drug affected, others have physical disabilities. Many simply have nowhere else to go – that was a real eye opener.”

Ms Anderson’s artwork (pictured left) focuses on images of hands and feet in fine detail. In the UnitingCare commissioned works, Ms Anderson sought to draw attention to the intimate and often hidden details faced by individuals living in care facilities.

“In this project particularly I wanted to give each person a unique identity and hands are so incredibly different for each individual,” Ms Anderson said.

“I felt that portraying their hands gave them a kind of anonymity, which protected them, but also revealed them at the same time.

“I’m interested in how these parts of the body can express just as much about a person’s character as a person’s face.”

As well as commissioning a large body of professional artwork, the Under the Floorboards project served to highlight many of the social issues Ballarat UnitingCare deals with on a daily basis. In this way, many of the works – whether it be a documentary, play or painting –act as a conduit for greater discussion and understanding of often unseen social issues.

“We often tell people the sort of work we’re doing but sometimes people don’t fully understand the range and extent of issues we’re dealing with. Not just as an agency, but also as a community more generally,” Mr Barclay said.

“The project, collectively, has created a sort of collage of so many aspects of a community that people don’t often see or appreciate.”

Artwork will be exhibited at the Fine Art Gallery of Ballarat from 2-20 October, free entry.

A gala event will be held on 16 November at the Ballarat Mining Exchange with special guest Sigrid Thornton and MC Derek Guille. Tickets for the black tie dinner are $110 and tables of 10 are $1,000. For tickets and further information visit www.unitingcareballarat.com.au or contact Susan Howell on 03 53372770.

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