Indigenous art project a huge success

Art to share: Audrey Williams, Bevan Thompson and Jane Mulcock would like to see the Indigenous Sculpture Project integrated into a public space on Esperance's waterfront.
Art to share: Audrey Williams, Bevan Thompson and Jane Mulcock would like to see the Indigenous Sculpture Project integrated into a public space on Esperance's waterfront.

A PROJECT aimed at upskilling Esperance's unemployed Indigenous community has morphed into a community art project of epic proportions.

A Skill Hire work-for-the-dole initiative was started in the middle of 2013 with the goal of introducing new skills to Aboriginal people.

Just 18 months after its conception the project had taken on 80-plus members of the community from many different networks.

Audrey Williams, manager of employment contracts at Skill Hire, was responsible for managing funds from the Department of Employment to get the project off the ground.

"The project started because we realised we had a lot of Indigenous people who were struggling to find work and because they had been unemployed for a while they had low self-esteem.

"We felt we needed something to give them a sense of pride and a sense of belonging," Ms Williams said.

The project was run in partnership with Esperance Community Arts (ECA) with the support of additional funding from Healthway to promote the Act-Belong-Commit mental health message.

Indigenous artist and local resident Bevan Thompson led the Skill Hire group of about 40 participants to create a series of Indigenous artworks with glass, wood and paint.

The finished works represent Esperance's six Noongar seasons and are an important reminder of Indigenous culture in this region of Western Australia.

Local resident Larry Youngson also led a group of community members who carved native flora and fauna into additional wooden sculptures as part of the Tradearts Sculpture project supported by a grant from the Regional Arts Fund.

Mr Thompson and Mr Youngson's projects were combined to create a large public artwork which celebrates cross-cultural partnerships and is temporarily housed at Esperance Community Arts (ECA).Esperance Community Arts secured a total of $25,000 in public funding for the two projects, originally planned for the new Esperance waterfront as two separate installations.

Collaboration between the artists involved have led to the works being presented as a single installation.

ECA executive officer Jane Mulcock said she was inspired to support the project for many reasons, but a large priority was to create an opportunity for Indigenous art and culture to be incorporated into public spaces around Esperance.

"There's no public Indigenous art here ... It's about pride for so many people and it's about being visible and out there in the community in a way that celebrates creativity, participation and belonging," Ms Mulcock said.

The partner organisations involved in the Indigenous Sculpture Project will soon begin the process of applying for Shire approval to install the works in a location that will ensure they can be enjoyed by the whole community, ideally on Esperance's foreshore, in front of the Pier Hotel, where many people could appreciate them.

Ms Williams said the Noongar Seasons sculptures were all finished with anti-graffiti paint and the highest quality of glass to avoid vandalism.

Recycled Tanker Jetty timbers, donated to the artists by the Shire of Esperance, were used to create these 12 sculptures and have a deep symbolic meaning for Indigenous and non-indigenous locals alike.

The Indigenous Sculpture Project and the Tradearts Sculptures can be seen at ECA's new home at 67 Dempster Street from January 12. The Esperance community is being asked to pledge their support to see this sculpture project integrated into a public space as soon as possible.

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