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Art overcomes adversity

“A work of art is a scream of freedom”, so said environmental artist Christo. Using art to overcome the challenges of adversity is at the heart of Wesley Mission Brisbane‘s creative initiative Art from the Margins (AFTM). Journey explores.

"I want people to know that there is a mind inside even the most disabled person," says Peter Rowe. Photo taken by: Wesley Mission Brisbane

Peter Rowe: “I want people to know that there is a mind inside even the most disabled person.” Photo: Wesley Mission Brisbane

Each year AFTM offers creative support and an artistic outlet to hundreds of artists who are homeless, living with a mental illness or physical disability or are challenged by similar adverse circumstances.

Beginning in 2008 as a program to support homeless artists, the idea of AFTM was born in a Brisbane City park beside a coffee van when a member of the Albert Street Uniting Church’s Servant Network was talking with an artist living in isolation. The artist spoke about the challenges artists living with disadvantage face when they try to display their work or participate in the wider arts community.  Wesley Mission Brisbane made the commitment to support these artists, and Art from the Margins was created.

The program has gone from strength to strength since.

Anthony Anderton, AFTM Manager, says a highlight of this year was the launch of a documentary film and photographic project exploring the link between creativity and improved wellbeing and greater social engagement.

“We set out to explore how creative activity can make a positive difference in overcoming the challenges of mental illness, homelessness or physical or intellectual disability,” he says.

A documentary, Art > Adversity, was produced by local film company Graetz Media, accompanied by an in-depth photographic narrative by leading photo-journalist Glenn Hunt. Funded by the Ian Potter Foundation, the documentary project features candid personal profiles and interviews with artists, their supporters and Brisbane community arts groups.

“These stories are reminders that for most of us our day-to-day lives are like clearly written pages; however, for many of the artists AFTM works with, those same pages can be impenetrable. They continually struggle to overcome stigma and barriers associated with disadvantage. It is inspiring to see how each artist has used creativity to create their own journey of hope, recovery, courage and renewal—and how creative programs like AFTM can support them,” says Mr Anderton.

This year continues to be busy for AFTM. Already five new art exhibitions have been staged, a program of art workshops rolled out, a new website launched and the appointment of the inaugural AFTM patron, the Hon Paul de Jersey AC Chief Justice, Supreme Court Queensland. In September AFTM will feature in the Brisbane Festival program, showcasing over 400 artworks at venues across Brisbane.

Through celebrating people’s art, rather than their disadvantage, AFTM is working towards a more just, compassionate and inclusive society.

For information about AFTM and its art programs please visit www.artfromthemargins.org.au. To view the documentary Art > Adversity visit http://tinyurl.com/ArtAdversity

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