A congregation explores collage

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by Louise Marson

A makeshift group of Brunswick Uniting Church members were recently asked to follow their art and ended up somewhere unexpected.

Led by the congregation’s arts convenor Ann Soo and local artist Priscilla Manthey, the group consisted of people with little or no art training as well as accomplished artists trying their hand at collage.

Together the makeshift ensemble engaged in composition, colour and design, using a variety of themes (such as surrealism) and artists (such as Henri Matisse) for inspiration.

But it soon became apparent the collaborative effort was more than just putting things on paper – some participants found it therapeutic.

Priscilla said she witnessed many new friendships forged during the six-week project and, in some instances, episodes of personal healing.

“When your thoughts get trapped and go round and round it can be distressing,” she said.

“This kind of work allows people to put a different thought process in their mind which lifts a weight off their shoulders.”

Ann said the project, which ran over the 2018-2019 summer holiday break, encouraged a sense of connectedness and community.

“It is about what art can offer in terms of communication between people and how we begin to bond together in that space,” she said.

“It really doesn’t depend on people’s backgrounds or what their history has been, art is so universal.”

Christina Rowntree, Theology and Arts Ministry at UCA Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, hopes other congregations will follow Brunswick Uniting Church’s lead.

“Not only have they made interesting and fascinating art, but the stories of people coming together sharing lives, sharing faith, sharing illness, sickness has really been significant,” she said.

Priscilla said she chose collage so that people from all skill levels could participate.

“It’s an incredibly generous medium because the very beginner can go in and come out at the end with a piece of paper that has a level of accomplishment to it,” she said.

“It’s really just cut and stick.”

The artworks are currently on display at the Centre for Theology and Ministry, 29 College Cres, Parkville until 28 February. They will also be shown at Brunswick Uniting Church on 3 March.

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