I spent a great afternoon on Friday soaking up the spectacular Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM) – March to Art: Place exhibition at No Vacancy Gallery in Melbourne. I highly recommend you go along and see this amazing photographic exhibition by veterans if you are able to. It was a truly breath taking and moving experience. Not only viewing the exhibition, but finding out about each of the artists narrative/back story, the impact military life had on their life; how arts have played a significant part in their recovery, and what inspired them to create these pieces of work. I also had so much fun channelling my inner child
Mark Johnston in his Chairman’s message explains that this year the theme for the ongoing ‘March to Art’ exhibition is ‘Place’, and says ”this series has promoted veterans wellbeing through the themes of Identity, Community and Narratives.”
Each piece of the exhibition is unique from photos of the moon and sky; underwater scapes, through to people and their travels. Truly, there is something there that everyone can resonate with. For me, works, really resonated with my sense of who, my place in the bigger scheme of the world, and also raised memories for me. I’ll list the 4 works that really resonated with me and why, further down in this blog.
Arts and Active Engagement, are beneficial in the holistic whole person approach to career development, which helps to develop Hope-Action orientated career resilience / career management skills and strategies. This is something that is very close to my heart, and is critical to assist people in developing resilience as they navigate the world of work, now and in the future. I do believe in ‘creative’ holistic approaches to career development which is evidence-based. Tanja Johnston, Head of Arts Programs for ANVAM and I, have discussed this before in relation to how this can be embedded as one intervention strategy to better support military career transitions. This would also include engaging with qualified Professional level Career Development Practitioners (with specialist skills of working with diverse clients including military, and complex needs) early in military personnel’s careers whilst serving in the Armed Forces. Sadly, a whole person, holistic approach is lacking from the current ADF career transitions model.
Now is time for change. Or in other words….
“ We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”Albert Einstein
What Pieces of Art Resonated With Me?
In no particular order they are;
‘THE UNDERTOW’, 2016 – Matt Burgess
I was drawn to the vibrant colours of the sand, green of the sea and the sense of openness of space, created by the crystalline water on the surface looking like diamond drops.
What this photo did, was to bring back memories of happy afternoons spent at a quiet beach near where I lived on the Central Coast of New South Wales called Maitland Bay Beach, in Bouddi National Park. This was a gentle beach, which was never over crowded, with little waves. Perfect for relaxing in. I used to leave a set of swim clothes and towel in the boot of my car and on hot afternoons (I could swim in the area for about 6 – 7 months of the year), I’d often head there after work to help unwind, relax and switch off. Until I saw Matt Burgess’ photo, I hadn’t realised how much I missed not being able to swim in the ocean on a regular basis, or just relax on the beach. I hope I am able to get to Brisbane in a few weeks’ time to catch up with friends and my niece who is like the daughter I never had – it will be 2 years since we last saw each other face to face.
‘WHEN YOUR BIKE MATCHES THE COLOURS OF THE SUNRISE’, 2019 – Chad Dobbs
As soon as I saw this photo, I immediately thought of Carpenter the bike I got when I first went to live in Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany. I cycled daily around the edge of the city to get to work, and ended up being confident cycling through the heart of the city (I loved the bike paths and rules for cyclists). I have had many happy bike trips in Germany along the canals, and even here in Australia (Carpenter got shipped out when I came back to live in Australia). My time spent living in Germany were the happiest 3 years of my life, and for a brief time on Friday, Chad’s photos transported me back to a place that will always be truly special to me, and where I hope to return to one day. Fingers crossed, next year in time for my birthday, I can be cycling slowly along the Rhein river in Cologne (no doubt stopping at Biergartens on the way, to sit, relax and watch the world go by).
‘BLACKSMITHING STUDENT WELDING A FORGE’, 2019 – Mark Toogood
This touched me for two reasons. Firstly, because this work felt personal. On my father’s side, I come from a long line of farriers/blacksmiths in England. My grandfather initially continued that tradition until he moved away from where he grew up. However, the skill seemed to continue to flow down to my father. Seeing this photo, reminded me of the time dad made my sister and I sets of metal swords for our Scottish Highland Dancing competitions. Watching from a safe distance, I was fascinated with how the metal was heated and shaped to form the hilt (handle) of the sword. I was even allowed to help (under very careful instruction and direction). Yep, I used to do the Highland swords dance, when I was a wee lass, and into my teenage years.
This is a special memory and place in time for me, that I hadn’t even thought about in I can’t remember when. I’m glad to have been reminded of this memory and time and place, as dad passed away two days after my 22nd birthday. Mark’s photo helped to feel like dad is close to me, and encouraging me to continue pursuing the ‘spark’ that is my passion for helping people with their career development. I still also have a fascination for metal work, maybe the blacksmithing gene runs through me as well.
“Reengagement with creativity was a big part of my recovery and a valuable tool I use to this day to live my best life. From the Austin program I learnt to let go of my inhibitions around my creativity and see where it takes me.”Mark Toogood
Secondly, the quote above from Mark Toogood, struck a chord with me. In those two sentences he has shown why a holistic approach to recovery and career transitions is not only beneficial, it is critical to a person’s sense of self. We know that if one pillar in a person’s life is suffering, then this impacts on all others, including career and family/friends relationships.
I previously had conversations back in 2017-2018 with other people who provide career transition support to members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) about the holistic benefit of courses such as the Blacksmithing course described above. (Disclaimer, I am not referring specifically to Mark, but another client, and situation in general). Unfortunately, the attitude by many was that the eligibility criteria meant that funding approval needed to be based on what the ADF member had been doing as part of their role in the ADF & also needed to be provided by a recognised RTO amongst other barriers. Don’t even get me started on that! It was frustrating to see, that they were taking a purely administrative ‘approach’ to a member’s career transition, without any true support in terms of career exploration and developing career management skills from a holistic perspective. Even more frustrating was the attitude at the time by some staff, that this was not part of their ‘remit’, and that ‘they didn’t get this support when they got out of the services’
‘RIDING ACROSS THE MESETA’, ‘CRUZ DE FERRO’, ‘GOOD MORNING WORLD’, 2019 – Kathryn Rae
And finally, this set of photos taken along the Camino de Santiago in Spain by Kathryn Rae really made me smile. I have never walked the 780kms along the pilgrimage route, but the trail really helped me to cope with self-isolation during the 112 days of Lockdown 2.0 in Melbourne last year. In the early days of the 2nd lockdown, a friend of mine in Melbourne (Originally from Bavaria) and who, had been introducing me via YouTube and messaging to the comedic work of German comedian Hape Kerkeling. They recommended I get hold of a copy of Hape’s book “I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago”. Hape’s descriptions of locations and events, really helped me to feel as though I wasn’t trapped in the house on my own, and brought me a lot of comfort and happiness during the long dark days of winter and lockdown. I’ll have to try and see the movie at some point.
I do really recommend you go and explore the exhibition if you have the opportunity. There is something there for everyone.
Whilst I was there on Friday, I even got the opportunity to roll my sleeves up and help make paper lanterns for next months moon rising festival in Melbourne. They’ll be hung underneath Flinders Street Bridge where Federation Square is. Lots of glue, paper and happiness was had – even more impressive, I managed to avoid gluing paper strips to myself. This did remind me of the Lanterne festival in Germany for St Martin’s Day. I loved seeing the little children parade around the church grounds in a line singing the lanterne song – so sweet
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