The Festival for Healthy Living- A Melbourne Children Hospital Inititiave
I was extremely grateful to be recommended for the Festival for Healthy Living by a wonderful lady in my local community Centre. In 2014 I was employed as assistant artist and the focus was divided between well being and Arts assistant facilitation all rounder one could say. 2015 I was more engaged as an Artist per say in community Arts facilitation.
The Festival For Healthy Living program is a 3 year program that visits regions identified as having special need at community level. In this case it just happened to be my home town, an area of low socio economic status with ample community issues. The focus is for Children and also includes the larger community in capacity building.
We worked as a majority of the schools in the local region with thousands of students all up over two years of work shopping, and it may just continue next year.
The Workshops are held at both Primary school level and High school in a mix of art modalities. The focus is arts health engagement, how the arts can serve as preventive mental health mediums and to increase the general well being in the community, by assisting (intentionally) enhanced peer, family and social relations, more inclusiveness, affect on self esteem/ self worth and dealing with a range of identified issues. We worked with issues such as racism and bullying, literacy and so on.
The children were given the opportunity where possible to choose art form. They got to sample drama, performance, dance, rap, song, music, writing, visual arts, circus with a range of contracted professional practising artists. Even Hoola hooping!
River of Life as Closing Ritual at Staughton college - with community issues and identified personal resources
Engagement levels varied with artform, school and artist teams and the activity its' self. I was engaged across the board assisting with circus stuff, The Sisters and Brothers Project, Visual Arts, Drama and Music. At Melton South Primary school we made masks first as paper mache then as an extended cardboard and mache process which ended up as our wonderful bird heads in the opening parade for the stilt walkers at the Dream Big festival culmination day.
Coburns had all the artists teams. I also worked with Sisters and Brothers, Circus and running an Improvised drama session.
At Melton Secondary we worked in the gym which was a bit of a challenge with sound. Marnie made the wonderful big Wedge tailed eagles with her group, that are a feature animal out on the western plains and of course connected to the Aboriginal creator dreaming story -Bunjil.
Melton South Primary Mask making
It is the opportunity that is important for the children. Sport is a well publicised and supported part of long term health care but the arts, as yet, are not widely understood for their long term health benefits. Whether a person chooses to become a professional artist or just to express themselves, as hobbyist crafts person etc, engagement is the key, self discovery, promoting a sense of joy, risk taking, promoting positive self worth and esteem. It is not about producing finished products of high art, even though we worked towards a grand finale in the second year as the festival event in the big tent, where all schools came together and contributed. See pictures below.
The Day the Circus tent came to town to Dream Big- featuring Shadow play, Melton Secondary college Wedgetailed eagles made by Marnie and co and Kris' tree made with Staughton college kids
The best part for me was not only getting paid, meeting new artists and having the perfect job that was an intersection of my skills, but seeing the kids have a go, learn new skills, make new friends, discover things they did not know before, about themselves, and the arts. Everyone in the community was very proud on our big day and I am so proud of all the kids for their fantastic work, we hope that in some small way or maybe a big way, their encounters with these art forms in ways which are not prescribed curricula, my enrich their lives. It is about having fun, trying and being engaged promoting positive mental health in the process. Who knows maybe we sprouted a few life long arts practitioners in the process, or at least encouraged them on their journey?
Thank you to the amazing and inspirational John Lane, The Royal Childrens Hospital, Linking Melton South, Regional Schools, teachers, Education department and Health workers, and all the fantastic artist teams, what an wonderful project to be involved in, I learnt heaps!
I am a girl from the North who lives in the South...a Minstrel of melody, a wordsmith, creatrix extraordinaire! I Compose sonic tapestries and create visual delights, and tantalize with tales from other times! Multi modal Artist/ Creator with Words, Pictures & Sounds. Ambient Music composer & singer songwriter. Artist/ therapist/ healer.