Art for all at the Moree Plains Gallery
Moree is a major agricultural centre and cotton growing area in the rich black-soil plains of northern New South Wales. The community suffers from a high level of youth unemployment, socio-economic disadvantage and lack of access to physical and mental health care services. At the same time, there is a strong and vibrant arts community in the town, which has a long history of engaging with the disadvantaged.
Community development and social inclusion are the primary focus of the education and arts programs offered by the Moree Plains Gallery. The classes play an integral role in giving people with physical disabilities and / or mental illness, as well as children at risk of leaving school, a great avenue to grow and increase their creative talents. The safe, open environment gives these participants the ability to learn new skills, as well as the opportunity to increase their sense of identity and connection to the community. The Gallery also celebrates diversity and is a leading force for reconciliation, curating bi-cultural exhibitions to bring Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community members together.
A $5,000 grant from the Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities program, funded by the Monsanto Fund, is helping the Moree Plains Gallery to play their part in a very effective partnership between government programs and the local community to support disadvantaged members of the community via a series of art workshops.
As the community’s interest in the workshops has grown, the Gallery was struggling to afford the necessary art supplies. The grant has enabled the workshops to continue to be offered at a low cost (or in some cases free of charge) to more than 250 people per week, and has greatly assisted in the purchase of much needed equipment.
FRRR’s Jacki Dimond was impressed with the program on a recent visit.
“The program has inspired the community to understand that “art” and the art gallery are very accessible. It’s removed some of that perceived exclusivity. Some pretty disadvantaged/disconnected youngsters have been able to come along to the workshops, and even if they don’t participate in the art per se, they interact with others in a really positive environment," Ms Dimond said.
The workshops have helped to bring these disadvantaged members of society into contact with the help that they need, and to improve health outcomes, lower crime and improve community cohesion.