Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Wiradjuri Country

When bushfires move through towns placing lives, homes and income at risk, the emotional and financial recovery can take years. In the wake of the 2019/20 bushfires, many communities continue to feel stress and anxiety from the loss of employment and the trauma of evacuating and leaving their homes behind. In Tumbarumba, in New South Wales, many people lost their homes, sheds, fences, stock, and other assets in the fires creating a financial burden that has left much of the town physically and emotionally exhausted. However, the residents are trying to rebuild.

The members of local organisation Artists on Parade Co-op Ltd wanted to help their town reconnect to their home, and with each other after the fires. Thanks to a $7,000 grant from the VISY Tumut Region Recovery Fund, funded by The Pratt Foundation, Artists on Parade held 16 workshops over several weekends in October 2020.

Throughout the year, Artists on Parade are responsible for hosting exhibitions featuring local artists. Their gallery space is often used for community activities and events. With access to this fantastic space, it became a perfect location for their hands on workshops to take place. Children, teenagers, and adults in the community participated in activities – not just art – that were specifically chosen to increase relaxation and inspiration among the attendees.

Artists on Parade wanted to ensure the residents of Tumbarumba didn’t miss out on interests and pursuits that were deemed as “non-essential” or “unnecessary” due to financial restraints. They therefore kept workshop fees low to allow as many people as possible to participate.

The workshops were a success, with 115 people from a wide demographic participating. The activities included pyrography workshops, canvas work, cardmaking, sketching, bike maintenance, pastel portrait painting workshops and cakes, coffee, and milkshakes as well.

The workshops provided a safe and relaxing space for the residents of Tumbarumba to gather and meet new people who have the same lived experiences. There were many examples of attendees meeting for the first time after realising they lived on the same street and had gone through very similar experiences in the fires. By the end of the workshops, they had started carpooling together to attend more sessions.

In addition to creating connections between the residents of Tumbarumba, many attendees were also able to take home a finished art piece to mark the occasion and close off a terrible year.