Art Beat of the Country

Art Beat of the Country

This story begins in the 1970s, when Australia left the European Common Market and dairying suffered a large fall in commodity prices. Getting food on the table for the family became a real concern. Young people could not see a future for themselves on the land and left for jobs in the city. Land values fell. Local communities felt their way of life was being threatened.Mary Salce AO

The stories here describe how one rural region, Gippsland, in the south-east corner of Australia, responded to these hard times. The answer was found in art.

Art provided hope and social, cultural and economic pathways. Funding and leadership led to two projects which aimed to raise the self-esteem and confidence of women by offering opportunity to develop vital life skills and at the same time, produce something that would have a lasting benefit to the community.

The Uniting Our Rural Communities (UORC) Cultural and Community Leadership Project in 1997 and several years later, the Women Who Mean Business (WWMB) project, provided opportunities for women to develop skills in leadership, business and the arts. Not only did these projects accomplish great outcomes within the local community at the time, the women involved went on to lead remarkable and fulfilling lives, drawing on many skills gained through the projects.

The women, many now in their 70s and 80s, reflect on what happens when opportunity is provided to develop self-respect, focus on goals, and collaborate for amazing outcomes.


Stories from Art Beat of the Country

This selection of stories documents the firsthand reflections of women involved in two art and community projects in an Australian rural region from 1997-2007. Threads in women’s stories weave a rich tapestry of social history that preserves the voices, thoughts and feelings of making do and finding solutions during difficult times. Women, young and old, came together to participate and collaborate in the projects which served as group/community therapy as well as providing individuals with skills and leadership training. Many women said, if not for the projects, they would have remained isolated in their community; moreover, through participating, they were inspired to engage in self-enriching pursuits and careers.

Besides addressing issues of financial hardship and low self-esteem, the art projects provided relief from undercurrents of mental health issues, domestic violence, loneliness and isolation.

Read their stories below and be sure to check in regularly as new stories will be added, well into 2020.


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