Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Year in Review


January  Provided a great start to 2017.  In 2013 I founded ArtISability.  This was a professional development program for artists living with disabilities.  In the early years I was successful in writing grant applications. About 20 artists with and without disabilities have either further their art knowledge or art skills.  Selling the concept the artists with disability can work at professional level is a hard sell and 'what is a professional artists anyway?

A professional artists is any artists selling artwork. I like to say to artist it doesn't matter what my opinion of your work is . . . If you find a buyer than that means you are now a professional artists.  The difficulty remains convincing the disability sector and the arts sector that disability does not affect the quality of an artists artwork.  The Australian Artbank is working closely with those who support artists with disability to change this perception.  So in late 2016 we changed our name to Ignite Artists.  We became a local network of artists who sort to share our skills with others. We endeavoured to build our presents in the community by working at local markets and offering activities.   My vision is to build a local enterprise that could support the grow of artists with disabilities. 

After trying a few different markets we decided the that was not our market place. At the time we were running a Friday night art group and we enjoyed working with them until July.  The ndis has brought many new challenges to the disability sector.  So its been a time of reflection.  

My own art group Ipswich Arts Connect is looking at partnership with others to host an art exhibition during FUSED Festival in September 2018,  January saw me recognised for my work with artists with disability and the arts community in general by Catyist Church and Ipswich City Council.  


Sail away. . .  2017 saw me stealing a few trips here and there. The first was a cruise up Hamilton Island before my name sake nearly flatten the island.  After four has at sea seeing few trees, I decided cruises were not my holiday of choice.   

Feb was also spent preparing for my Purple Day Fundraiser.


Purple Day is an International Day to build awareness of epilepsy and seizures disorders. This year I combined my fundraiser with the rental of the coffee shop wall.  This display was called planting purple seeds.  In hope to grow a understanding of epilepsy and I guess disability in general. You may know my heart for an inclusive society drives my advocacy work including using art as a community connection point.  Any public education program is difficult especially on your own.


As usual was the annual Ipswich Festival which showcases Ipswich.  I again participated in ArtBeat with is sponsored by the Ipswich City Council. 

This year I have been blessed to work with a team of very talented artists as we shared skills with each others and the joy of art in the wider community. Thank you to Nancy Brown, Kate Den Otter, Mieke Den Otter, Helen Simmons and Dorothy Welsh who have supported me with various adventures and misadventures.


By may I was well aware of my decrease in energy levels and just feeling exhausted and overwhelm most of the time.  Having 20 different support workers in
my home wasn't helping and I just wanted a break.  The Support Studio Network had been planning a 
think tank on the supported arts and the introduction of the ndis.

The question being, How do we as Supported Studios stay relevant in the ndis environment?  A support studio supports professional artists with disabilities to produce, promote and sell their art work.  So my plan was to going down to the Sydney office do some forum planning and have a bit of a break in Manley.

My arrival at my 'accessible' accommodation was meet with a rough step and an in passable pathway to my room and alternative accommodation was sort. Let's just say the owner was just as clueless on accessibility as she was about how to win customers in the hospitality industry. In the end I decided to write my money off.

My health continued to deteriorate and a visit to Sydney hospital saw me diagnosed with  Todd's Syndrome, otherwise know as Alice and Wonderland Syndrome which I obviously lived with for a very long time. This is the cause of my epilepsy.  I was stress because I medical exhausted.  It was time to up my feet up until my meds could give me a better quality of life.  My energy has not returned to what it was last year. 

I have not done any major activity for Ignite Artists during the second half of the year.


Of course the major change to my life this years has been the introduction to the ndis.  My plan was approved the week before I flew to Sydney.  The National Disability Insurance Scheme in the new way people with disabilities are supported in Australia.

I was invited to speak at the opening of the Ipswich Area ndis offices.  Our area manager was determine to mark the opening by celebrating the participants not service providers.  Ultimately the ndis is about giving participants a greater say in the way they want to be supported. 

Support is now provided around the activities and aspirations of participants and family members. A large amount of activities I engage in involve art.  The opening of the ndis office occurred sounded by the artwork of artists living with disability, I couldn't help feeling proud that there was work by former ArtISability students dotted around the room. 

The roll out in Ipswich and other areas has been full of adjustments for everyone, including myself.  With such a major change in policy things were not going to be smooth sailing. I like everyone else feel overwhelmed.  Services were under prepared and the early introduction to Ipswich caught everyone off guard.

The smooth transitioning we were all assured of was seem to happen at lighting spreed.  One day we were being supported by Disability Services and the next the ndia were paying the bills. There seemed to be a lot of pressure to make decisions.  So being very unwell at the time all I wanted was to simply things.  

Having elected to partially mange my own funding.  All I wanted at the time was to simplify my supports.  Basically I wanted an end to my 4 rosters and the endless juggling act.  My first choice of providers has not gone to plan, so I am now exploring a model to engage my own workers in 2018.  Both fearful and exciting at the same time. 

However the ndis provides much more than my day to day support needs.  I now have access to therapy like physio and equipment to assist with my independence.


One of my personal professional goals for 2017, was to extend my art audience and exhibit outside the Ipswich Area. With ill health and the roll out of the ndis I not been successful to securing a solo exhibition outside Ipswich.  However I was involve it the Spring Hill Art Festival and I have been regularly exhibiting at Aspire Gallery in their themed exhibitions.  The first of these was 'Black n White' Exhibition.  

September   .  

Saw the introduction of the FUSED Festival to the Ipswich calendar. This is an arts Festival and one of the visual arts contribution was Art in Action this gave local art groups a chance to demonstrate their artistic skills.
The festival celebrated the performing arts, writing,  poetry and visual arts.

Another venture that kicked off was during FUSED was Ipswich Rocks.  

CREATE IT! HIDE IT! FIND IT! SNAP IT! POST IT! SHARE IT! And then if you want you can chose to re-hide it. Check out @IPSWICH ROCKS and @QLD ROCKS on Facebook. I now discover that the 'The hide and seek rock crazy' is occurring all over Australia.
Many Ipswich business used Ipswich rocks as a creative way to market their businesses and in some cases finding rocks brought rewards. During October QLD rocks ran a competition on facebook for the best decorated Halloween rock.  
We are also starting to see Ipswich Rocks travel beyond our city.  As the rock designers carry them on holidays. From memory one landed in Hong Kong. I took my own rocks over to Redland Bay on a short break in November.  


My major art project for 2017 has been the development of my art dolls.  I began experimenting with art dolls in 2015 under Mia Clark due to me fascination with eyes. I wanted to paint faces.  Mia is more abstract in her thing and thought abstract or free flowing styles were more suited to my hand coordination difficulty. 

During my Introduction to Watercolour class (not that I needed an introduction to watercolour) I was again drawing faces.  Much of the work from this class formed into a digital art exhibition called Freedom From Expressions, which was shown in Sydney, Newtown, through Off The Wall Gallery and I HEART.  The theme of this exhibition, was to challenge the perceptions we all form of others, I have decided to take this theme into my doll collection.

We often make assumptions of others based on what we see and the information and the knowledge we have of that group of people. We judge others based on what they wear, eat, their weight, religion, sexuality, culture and perceived disability.  

The biggest obstacle to multiculturalism and the inclusion of others who are different to ourselves if fear,  We fear what we do not know. We leave things unsaid because we are frighten we might offend others and we put up walls because of our own values, beliefs and sometimes myths truths we gain through the media.

The beauty in the eyes of a Muslim lady, has become a powerful symbol of our collective fear an ignorance. As the topic of illegal immigrants, boat people and terrorism are being widely discussed, of fears of the unknown can taint our beliefs of other cultures. 

As a group refugees and boat people are not Muslims. In general Muslims are not terrorists nor have they declare war on the world. However that is what our politicians and media who have us believe.  Opinions of others are formed from stereotypes and overgeneralise.

Of course my own agenda in my advocacy work and building inclusion is the preconceptions of disability and beliefs that has lead to the social isolation of disability.  Disability is not a result of a person's impairment or their perceived inabilities.  Disability is a result of the physical and attitudinal barriers we have created by the way we have structured our society.  This is very much the same as the way we treat older Australians and those from other cultures.

Many of us would prefer not to be reminded of our humanity or see the pain and scars of others.  I realise how connected my art dolls have become to the social challenges and current debates of our society.  Our understanding of others is based on our knowledge and for most of us that is derived from the some of experience.  

If our knowledge is based on seeing a group of people with disabilities on outings in the community, then our knowledge in limited to that experience.  If our knowledge is based on a sibling or friend with disabilities then our knowledge will be more extensive. When it comes to understanding those who are different then inviting experiences is the best way to gain knowledge of what it is to live with disability.

Well that is what my friends tell me anyway.  This journey in 2017 has lead to my 2018 Doll Exhibition - Into The Melting Pot - opening night is the 9th February, at The Drawing Point Gallery.  Sometimes in the heat of life is the only way we learn and expand of experience.  

This year I have decided good art makes us think and challenges reality and that is I hope to give visitors to my next exhibition. 


With the impending arrival of my new flat mate and the last art exhibition dash for 2017,  I stole a few precious days break at Redland bay.  Long rolls, sea air and a visit to the art gallery.

Exhibits in November included Art 4 Connect to support Able Australia and Ipswich Arts Connect Inc annual Off The Wall Exhibition.  

This year I have experimented with new styles, mediums and surfaces. I have particularly enjoyed working with inktense pencils by Derangement using them to hand design fabric to make dolls dresses and larger artworks to stretch over canvases. 

Some of my worked will be available at Gifted and Art Smiths gift shop in Arttime.  Gifted - Artists, Artisan and Art Smiths Christmas art market is being housed in the Drawing Point Gallery, all work by this collective of artists is priced under $50.  So come in for morning tea on 2 nd Dec @ 10 am, who knows you may find that unusual Christmas gift your looking for.

Oh . . . that new house mate has move in and taken over . . .

My name is Ashes!

Wishing you joy & peace
as we celebrate the
Christmas Season. 

May you reach the
stars in 2018.

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