Mid-point Reflections on FIVE
Posted by Andrea Lewis
Our Paraburdoo screening of the digital portraits work on 7 June marked the mid-point of FIVE. We have now fully completed FIVE projects in two communities – Busselton and Geraldton – and, while the digital portraits initiative in Paraburdoo has come to a close, the large-scale sculpture project is ongoing.
What have we observed about FIVE, as we take time to reflect at the half-way mark? In both Busselton and Geraldton, we have been lucky to partner with highly motivated local councils. The impact of this on the project has been profound, as local governments open up networks, provide entry points into key stakeholder groups, share city-managed spaces, and offer marketing and event support. Perhaps more importantly, working so closely with local government means that projects like FIVE support local government strategies around community wellbeing and the arts. The City of Greater Geraldton, for example, has a Creative Community plan – a component of which is to develop Greater Geraldton as a 'city for the arts' with initiatives directly aimed at increasing participation in arts, cultural and social activities.
FIVE's strong alliance between DADAA and Rio Tinto has meant that, amongst other things, the project has been able to work with remote mining and FIFO communities – a key demographic factored into the planning of the FIVE project during 2012. In both Busselton and Geraldton – two of Rio Tinto's major source communities in Western Australia – FIFO workers and their families participated in FIVE projects. Not surprisingly, in Paraburdoo, almost 90 per cent of participants in the digital artwork project were resident in town and Rio Tinto employees.
Early data from our two-year evaluation reveals a few key things about this participation to date. For one, in our projects in Busselton and Geraldton, the physical location of the project was a key factor in ensuring our whole-of-community approach, with most participants engaging with the project because if was 'accidentally accessible.' The ArtGeo Gallery in Busselton and the ACDC Gallery on the busy Marine Terrace in Geraldton both worked strategically well to involve almost 2,000 participants in each of the two towns.
Data for Geraldton also shows that after initial participation, nearly 70 per cent of people returned two or more times to work on the project, with almost 38 per cent returning four to five times – many with friends and family at later dates. Comments from participants gathered during the evaluation show that many found the environment 'friendly', 'welcoming', 'inclusive' and 'inspirational'.
The highest ranked benefit noted by participants in FIVE Geraldton was 'meeting and interacting with people'. While all five 'Ways to Wellbeing' – the NEF-produced model being used to map impacts of FIVE – were strongly present in both towns, it was 'connecting' that ranked highest both in Busselton and Geraldon. With evidence in the literature that social ccapital is a key factor in both individual and community resilience, it is good to see FIVE contributing so clearly in this way.
In Paraburdoo, results from surveys conducted after the screening of the digital artwork – titled 'Belonging Paraburdoo' – showed that 'getting involved in the Paraburdoo community' was the highest ranked benefit from the project, while watching the screening of the film functioned to 'develop an identify for Paraburdoo.' About 90 per cent of respondents in all three towns wanted more projects like this in the future.
Collectively, all FIVE projects aim to bring people together with the aim of facilitating social connection through the arts. While sculptural works created embody this process in less tangible ways, the digital portraits captured by Craig Walsh in all three communities elicit a direct narrative about what makes people feel like they belong in a community. Embedded in these narratives are rich findings about both personal philosophies for coping with isolation and loneliness, as well as inspirational stories and ways in which people find meaning in their immediate worlds.
We encourage you to watch these digital artworks, available through the links below.
NEST: A Caring Symphony (Geraldton) – available mid-August
BELONGING Paraburdoo – available late August