Star Mail – Community art project in Boronia breaking down stereotypes
By Tyler Wright
Artists both young and old are coming together to combat ageism and build a diverse public art project to be displayed in the Boronia township.
The Eastern Community Legal Centre’s ‘My Generation’ initiative has joined primary school children in year levels four, five and six from Boronia K-12 College with those aged over 60 years old, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents aged over 50 years of age, to create a collaborative series of artworks and documentary film.
Drawing and painting activities held as part of the art workshops each week from Wednesday 13 July at Boronia’s Progress Hall will culminate into a larger display between Progress Hall and Knox Infolink, alongside painted bricks and decorated rubbish bins.
“I think we’re looking for something really joyful and eye-catching to lighten up the space and brighten up the space a bit,” Lead Artist and workshop facilitator Alisa Tanaka-King said.
“I imagine it will feature some themes around connection in nature,” Alisa said.
Other common themes that have arisen through collaborative painting and drawing activities include family, the environment and climate change.
“We’ll all be working off the same piece of paper or someone will be drawing something and then passing it along so then someone adds to it,” Alisa said.
“The artwork never really belongs to one person. It reflects elements of everyone’s bits that they’ve added.”
“We’ve done some portraits and we’ve also done some creating of creatures and monsters that everyone adds to,” Alisa said.
And then this week, we’re also talking about symbols, and the importance of symbols and communicating messages, and what symbols we might be using, or wanting to look at, to use in the artwork.
People are also making their own flags as a personal reflection of what they they stand for and represent.”
Boronia resident and mosaic artist Suzy Lyons joined the ‘My Generation’ project after seeing a post on social media about the initiative and thought it would be a great way to be involved in the community after owning her house in Boronia for 20 years.
“We’ve lived here for a very long time and I love working with children, I was an integration aide for quite a few years, I’ve worked on a summer camp over in the US as an art teacher. So the thought of working with kids again, actually was what probably interested me the most, because I love inspire them and see what they can do,” Suzy said.
Suzy said she is “blown away” at how intelligent the primary school children she works with are; knowing about large topics such as climate change and the environment.
“The things that they talk about is quite mind blowing, to be honest,” Suzy said.
“It’s been really fun. And we haven’t been given the whole picture yet, so I’m not really understand understanding how the outdoor artwork is going to evolve. But as we go week to week, I can see the collaboration of everybody adding just a small piece to something bigger. And I suspect that that’s what’s going to happen.
“I’m a mosaic artist, mostly, so I’m feeling like this is really interesting process, because we’ve been doing a lot of drawing,” she said.
Lead Artist Alisa said connecting young primary school students with those in their community over 50 helps break down stereotypes around how a person in an older age bracket may act or what their needs may be.
“There’s not a big conversation around elder abuse yet, I don’t think I think it’s not something that a lot of people are aware of,” Alisa said.
“It’s been noted that one of the key drivers is ageism, and ageist attitudes, and throughout all our communities we see so many ageist attitudes. even unintentionally.
I have all sorts of preconditioned ageist attitudes within myself that I’m not even aware of, and they’re not intentionally malicious, but they are there, because that’s what society tells us.”
And I think projects like this, to try and give a voice to older members of the community and build relationships with other members of the community is really important and trying to stop that, so that we’re not making assumptions about what older people want and need and believe in, and actually give them the opportunity to tell us themselves.”
Alisa said since the workshops began in mid-July, children have been asking their older companions personal questions like “how are your chickens going?” or “how was your partners birthday?” and older participants are remembering conversations, even knowing one particular young student’s inspiration was to be a Ballerina.
“If [the children] then see [older participants] in the street or in a shop they’re likely to say hello and connect and care about their well being in a different way to if those connections weren’t made,” Alisa said.
“I think that’s where really engaging other people in the community with relationships in an intergenerational way is so important, because that’s what will slowly, slowly change those attitudes.”
Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) has partnered with The Basin Community House, EACH, Eastern Regional Libraries Boronia branch, Knox Council, Knox Leisureworks, Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place, Swinburne University and Women’s Health East to create ‘My Generation’.
A public film screening event of the ‘My Generation’ documentary featuring various participants will be screened on 29 August or 30 August (date TBC) from 6:30pm to 8:00pm.
For more information on the Eastern Community Legal Centre’s work on elder abuse, phone 1300 32 52 00, email eclc.org.au or visit https://eclc.org.au/what-we-do/partnerships-and-projects/elder-abuse/rose-rights-of-seniors-in-the-east/
If you or anyone you know is experiencing elder abuse, you can contact 1800ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) or 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
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