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Mental Health Week: Art, Advocacy and Recent Achievements

Posted by Andrea Lewis

The last few months have been a period of highlights for FIVE, with a lot happening to reinforce the real impacts that the project is having in terms of its core goals and objectives.

Projection by digital artist Craig Walsh of My Face, Our Place participant Toolah Bear-Olfin, FIVE Derby, 2014Projection by digital artist Craig Walsh of My Face, Our Place participant Toolah Bear-Olfin, FIVE Derby, 2014

FIVE received national recognition in August when it won a silver Achievement Award at the Mental Health Services Awards ceremony. The event was part of the national Mental Health Services Conference held in Perth this year. FIVE won the award in the category for ‘Mental Health Promotion or Mental Illness Prevention’ and it was good to see the project receive this professional recognition for its strategies around early intervention in mental health issues.

Mental Health Week in October provided another pivotal point in the project. For one, our FIVE Derby project wrapped up and celebrated during Mental Health Week. After four weeks of intense activity, artistic outcomes were exhibited in the MarshArt festival, taking place over three days from 8–10 October. The whole-of-community sculpture project – that created a giant Lizard Tail for exhibition – saw more than 1,200 participants work with artist Hiromi Tango. The work is a product of thousands of micro-artworks that Hiromi and others wove together to create a collective story about the values, the cares and the lives that make up the Derby community.

Artist Craig Walsh's final FIVE work drew on a narrative from his conversation with elder Lena Buckle. The 8-minute film was screened at the local Picture Gardens, with single images from the film also projected onto a boab in town. Additional random large-scale projections of portraits from the 2013 My Face, Our Place project run by Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre were also projected onto a number of trees around town. Together, the works created the most unexpected and unique light sculptures around Derby – highlighting the town's spectacular trees, providing intimate portraits of the people who make up this special community and creating a spectacular outdoor artwork in a way never seen before.

Media coverage of the project has been growing and we have been particularly heartened to see FIVE participate in national dialogue around mental health – in particular, by advocating for the extraordinary ways in which participatory arts at the grass root level can facilitate wellbeing through simple acts of creativity in a community setting. This was always a key goal of the project – to take the conversation about the link between the arts and mental health to a broader audience. Stories in The West, Scoop and Head2Head magazine, along with continued broadcast coverage on ABC and local radio stations have been instrumental in promoting the project activities, artistic products and social impacts.

During mid-October, FIVE heads to Kalgoorlie for the Arts Edge Summit, Australia's premier regional arts conference. FIVE has a strong presence at this important gathering for the arts sector. A master class on our FIVE Paraburdoo project – led by artist Alex Mickle and General Manager Rio Tinto (Paraburdoo Region) Scott Wilkinson – will showcase this collaboration by sharing the challenging process, the important risk issues and the outcomes from the project – in terms of both wellbeing and the unique artwork being produced.

Finally, in late-September, FIVE Esperance's Twig project also wrapped up. Taking a very different tac to our other four FIVE projects, FIVE Esperance saw artist Trevor Flinn thrive during residencies on two farms where he turned farm equipment into artworks, farming properties into settings for interactive theatre and installation, and farmers and neighbours into unwitting artists and audiences.

Part of its subtle but masterful technique for getting farming communities to re-see the beauty of their land, Twig also held a final pivotal event – the Sunday night bonfire. This very traditional shared ritual of bringing people together and promoting conversation on farming land is essential to the community-building success of the project. Numbers for FIVE Esperance might have been small compared to the thousands for our whole-of-community Busselton, Geraldton and Derby projects, but the impacts across a farming community – so dispersed and often vulnerable in its social fabric – were huge.

All FIVE projects aim to stretch artistic process, produce new product and reach new audiences. From the novelty of Trevor's artistic process in Esperance to the ways in which sculptor Alex Mickle and the community of Paraburdoo are pushing the boundaries of public art in Australia, FIVE remains committed to its vision of vibrant individuals, communities and artistic outcomes in Western Australia.





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