A project of the Queens Lodge Supported Residential Service (SRS) Studio, Connecting to Country was an artistic exploration of local Indigenous flora, fauna, history and culture.
The SRS Studios program is an opportunity for people from residential services to engage with artmaking in a professional studio environment with high-quality materials and industry-level tutelage and advice.
The residents of these units are often vulnerable individuals for whom previous reengagement with communities has been problematic; Connecting to Country was developed in response to this disconnection, and aimed to facilitate meaningful engagement for residents of our Queen’s Lodge Studio with their local area and develop their flourishing arts practice.
Through Connecting to Country, residents visited the local Darebin Creek and Darebin Creek Parklands, where they met with experts to learn about the local environment; they also met with Katie Roberts, Darebin Parklands’ 2014 Artist in Residence, to view her year’s work; and worked with Wurundjeri Elder Ian Hunter to learn about Wurundjeri history, culture, dreamtime stories and artmaking.
The group drew on these experiences to create artworks that reflected their relationships with their local area and history, as well as their memories of the nature and life in their past communities, countries and homes. From bold but delicate sculptures of plaster and natural materials to methodical mixed media collages of the local environment, the works of Connecting to Country are evocative, imaginative and represent a diversity of experience of home, connection to place and artmaking.
The works were seen by thousands of visitors when Connecting to Country was exhibited at the Whittlesea Community Festival in March 2015; eight of the works were also featured in a publication of the same name, which offers a legacy outcome to be shared with the community.
Connecting to Country received incredible support from the local community, including the 2014-15 Whittlesea Council Community Development Grant and support from Merri Community Health Services and Darebin Creek Management Committee, and wonderful feedback from the participant artists