Busselton Celebrates and Wraps Up
Posted by Andrea Lewis
FIVE Busselton, now complete, has been everything and more than we had hoped for.
Testimony to the community groundswell that had developed around this project, was our project celebration and exhibition opening night event on Friday 22 November, which saw around 130 guests attend, many adorned and costumed in blue, and enthusiastic about sharing their experience of the project with one another and by way of our 'vox pop' initiative we ran on the night.
With whole-of-project participant numbers at around 1,500 and with our website receiving almost 3,000 visit during the project, FIVE Busselton engaged a good slice of the local community. Artist blogs and Facebook posts gave us a window on what was happening at ArtGeo Gallery and in Ludlow Forest, as the projects unfolded. Thanks go to the City of Busselton and ArtGeo staff, who committed themselves wholeheartedly to the project – and without whom this project would not have hit the high that it did.
From a project management point of view, the Busselton experience has been encouraging to know that community arts projects can have such a profound impact in drawing a community together, if the right stakeholders and artists are engaged. The FIVE team at DADAA and Rio Tinto has taken good stock of the project's highlights and of its more challenging moments. We will use what we have learned as we move to our next communities of Geraldton in March, followed by Paraburdoo in April.
Acknowledgement must go to lead artists Craig and Hiromi, who turned the ArtGeo Gallery into a welcoming and vibrant place of creativity and storytelling, and took themselves out into the community in the early stages of the project to get the word out. Their participants ranged from school children to scout groups to visitors passing through town to a loyal cadre of local residents and artists who couldn't stay away! In the quiet of Ludlow Forest, our other lead artist Nicole and her participants built an evocative nature-based artwork, with the beauty of both art and environment touching deepy all who were involved and leaving a symbolic sculpture for visitors to contemplate.
Craig Walsh captured in the order of 50 digital portraits – availble for viewing on the Digital Artwork page of the Busselton section of this site. I encourage you to watch as many as you can, and be moved by the experiences and insights residents have of life in Busselton and why they find themselves drawn to what many consider to be one of the most beautiful and liveable parts of the country. Collectively, Craig's digital portraits over the course of our two-year pilot – which tease our people's responses to the notion of 'belonging' – will form a key component of evidencing the importance of shared artistic and cultural activities to both individual and community wellbeing.
FIVE, and indeed all community arts and cultural development work, is about participatory arts creating the opportunity for people to come together, to get to know each other and to form relationships that stengthen social bonds – in turn, bringing other benefits. While our evaluators are still processing information they gathered during formal evaluation of the project, it is worth noting that one of the frameworks we are looking to in assessing the social impacts of FIVE is UK think-tank NEF's 'Five Ways to Wellbeing'. Those ways to wellbeing are identified, in simple terms, as: connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give. I am sure that those who encountered FIVE Busselton – whether by making art or simply by viewing it – might vouch for the project opening up, no doubt even in intangible ways, new pathways to wellbeing.