Art allows me to express my emotions, what I am feeling. Art is family. It brings people together, you find hidden treasures – Tina, Westcare Artist and Mum
Fly Bird Fly is a new city studio space on Wright Street Adelaide with four residential artists. The studio also interacts with the WestCare Centre in the provision of workshops and creative space for people participating in WestCare who might be experiencing a range of struggles in life including homelessness.
I was chatting to Andrew McDonough (one of the resident artists) and Claire Wildish (studio curator) who were asked to provide some art for a recent conference I attended. They were asked to showcase “art from people experiencing homelessness” and the approach they took was, in my opinion, worth reflecting on.
The art curated for the conference by Claire was a mixture of pieces from the residential artists, other artists connected with the studio, and participants from the Westcare Centre. And rather than delineate any of the work as created by “homeless people” Claire and Andrew chose to support those artists to reclaim who they are outside of what they do not have. They helped them to describe themselves as artists as well as other roles they find most significance in.
This is important in a culture like Australia where we put so much focus on what we “do”.
Andrew described how, in conversation with these artists he would start calling out these attributes:
I’m going to call you our resident philosopher.
In this way Andrew was helping people to be seen and named for an identity in which they are not to be pitied.
Recognising that people are multifaceted and that success in life is a many pronged thing and, while stable housing may well be one measure of success for some of us; we are more than our homes, our health and our bank balance. To pity people so often removes their capacity to contribute value to me.
As we face the plethora of charity advertising that comes with the Christmas season I think it is worth reflecting on the benefits of the approach taken by the Fly Bird Fly studio in supporting people to be affirmed in their strengths rather than pitied or labeled for their vulnerabilities or needs.