Esperance Community Arts: Connecting through arts

Sharing stories: Joe Young and Richard Henderson adding their stories to Hope’s 'Story Tree' at Esperance Community Arts. Photo: Jane Mulcock.
Sharing stories: Joe Young and Richard Henderson adding their stories to Hope’s 'Story Tree' at Esperance Community Arts. Photo: Jane Mulcock.

There is a lot of evidence to demonstrate that participation in arts-based activities can have a range of positive benefits for individual and community wellbeing.

Arts activities are frequently used in health care settings to complement other treatments. An article in the Smithsonian Magazine on November 8 reported on plans for Medical doctors in the UK to begin formally prescribing arts-based treatments including singing lessons and dance classes to help treat a range of ailments including mental health issues.

In WA, Healthway’s long term commitment to sponsoring annual arts programs as a way of promoting important health messages, such as Mentally Healthy WA’s “Act-Belong-Commit” campaign, demonstrates the valuing of the arts outside of the arts sector.

“Connected Cultural Experiences – Bringing people together through the arts, heritage and cultural activities” is one of the five priority areas for funding that Lotterywest and Healthway have identified in their Community Investment Framework.

The identified outcomes recognise the importance of arts for positive community development, namely that “Western Australians are connected through the arts and cultural activities”.

Esperance Community Arts is exploring several partnerships opportunities with health-focused organisations.

We are currently supporting an Act-Belong-Commit project developed by Suzanne Pinker from Hope Community Service in the Edge of the Bay event on December 15.

This project is titled ‘The Story Tree and the Road of Life’. Participants are invited to write a story or create a drawing about personal connections to place and community that can be attached to the Story Tree or added to the ‘Road of Life’, to be represented by a long piece of calico located near the tree.

The fabric will be held at the Esperance Community Arts Space for groups and individuals who would like to add their stories in the lead up to the event.

The Arts Space is located at 67 Dempster Street (opposite the Museum) and is open from 10am -2pm Tuesday to Friday or by appointment. The goal is to share and collate stories about feelings of belonging and connection across the community.

It is often the act of participating in a shared community activity, being part of something bigger, that generates the magic of community arts, and the benefits to health and wellbeing of being connected to others in positive ways.

The Cannery Arts Centre’s 9x5 fundraising exhibition is a great example of this experience, as is the Esperance Theatre Guild’s annual Christmas Pageant project.

Both provide opportunities for individuals to be part of something bigger in creative, playful ways. For more information, visit www.esperancecommunityarts.org.au or call ECA on 9072 1158.