I have continued to journal and reflect on the role of art within the concept of 'community engagement'. Thanks to the Woollahra Studio Residency Ive been able to not to make new work but push myself and my practice further into a space that is more open to collaboration and skills sharing. I'd previously taught in the Bachelor of Fine Art Textiles program at UNSW Art & Design and have facilitated various workshops, but I don't think I'd ever consciously considered the links between teaching in academia, my personal practice and skills sharing in the broader community. Maybe it should have been more obvious to me but it wasn't. As a society we are beginning to talk more about community and connection. These concepts have always existed but I think we are only now just beginning to challenge the concept of community and connection for who - who gets access, who gets heard, who gets the support to be heard? How do institutions that are based on colonial and patriarchal systems like schools, universities, councils and health centres evolve in the way they engage with and for communities? Awareness is great but its not enough, its in the doing that change happens. As I've become more vulnerable and more aware of my own position and how I have an impact on those around me I've felt a push to move out of my comfort zone. I feel clumsy and uncomfortable because I'm having to confront the past (things I should have done, ways I should have been) as well as the fact that I'm going to continue to make mistakes. As confronting and uncomfortable as this vulnerable place is right now, a layer of the veil has lifted and I'm moving forward.
The reality is I like not having to be anywhere in particular or having something specific to do. I like quiet productivity and organising my own day. I like big gaps between 'events' or situations where I need to be very visible/interactive. And so October was none of that. October was kids workshops at Woollahra and Paddington Libraries. It was winning a prize as part of the inaugural Seed Stitch Collective Contemporary Art Award hosted by the Australian Design Centre. It was being curated into an exhibition at Peacock Gallery by the wonderful Talia Smith. It was running a community art project at the Viva America Latina Festival at Lyne Park and running an intergenerational workshop as part of the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize. Don't get me wrong, I love the interaction and meeting new people. I especially enjoy the feedback on people's interaction with my work or my ideas about process and making - especially kids.
But the flip side is that it is draining. It takes a mental and emotional toll because there's a lot of preparation that goes behind these events - scheduling delivery of artwork, organising child care, sending artwork details, installation, preparing materials, preparing workshop plans, the anticipation of how it will go: will people enjoy the workshop? Were there enough materials? Will they think it worthwhile? How could I do better? and so on. It is an art form in itself to balance the desire to earn a living from what you love to do and also care for yourself in what can often feel like that constant hustle to create opportunities, to say yes to everything or else you'll miss out or worse you'll become invisible.