BIG READ

ARTIST. FEM­I­NIST. MUM. A COAST WO­MAN’S MIS­SION TO STRENGTHEN COM­MU­NI­TIES ACROSS THE WORLD THROUGH STREET ART

Life & Style Weekend - - WELCOME - WORDS: AN­NIE CAUGHEY

It’s al­most like a plot line for a ro­man­tic com­edy. An artist goes to de­sign school, grad­u­ates and takes the corporate route, only to re­alise it’s not at all what she wants. So she takes a brave risk to go it alone. She starts her own cre­ative business. Along the way she finds strug­gles and successes, she falls in love and later wel­comes a baby son.

This is the story of lo­cal artist Sarah Scul­ley.

I chat with Sarah in­side her new stu­dio lo­cated in­side two mas­sive ship­ping con­tain­ers that have been dropped in the mid­dle of nowhere in the Sun­shine Coast hin­ter­land. It’s mid-ren­o­va­tion and things are (as al­ways) taking longer than ex­pected. Her son sits in the cor­ner oc­cu­py­ing him­self by cre­at­ing his own grand de­signs – ob­vi­ously he’s in­her­ited the cre­ative genes.

Sarah’s on a mis­sion to fin­ish the ren­o­va­tion by her­self. She’s had to learn how to weld, she’s spent hours watch­ing Youtube videos on cladding, drilling and fenc­ing. And don’t even ask how much a glass slid­ing door weighs.

But de­spite the chal­lenges that come with ren­o­vat­ing a stu­dio com­pletely solo, Sarah is smil­ing ear to ear.

Just like there’s pas­sion in her work, there’s a de­ter­mi­na­tion to build this stu­dio in­side and out with her own hands. A space to bring out her cre­ative side that is com­pletely made by her­self, for her­self.

She’s chas­ing that feel­ing all artists are fa­mil­iar with – the sense of ful­fil­ment when you step away from a com­pleted project and ad­mire it from afar.

Sarah is known through­out Queensland for her dis­tinc­tive street art style. She’s been com­mis­sioned by many coun­cils and busi­nesses to create pub­lic mu­rals all through the state and has been in­vited to create live paint­ings for events such as the re­cent Big Pineap­ple Mu­sic Fes­ti­val.

How­ever, what sets Sarah’s art apart is how it con­nects the com­mu­ni­ties she cre­ates for.

In­stead of taking a space as her own, Sarah holds work­shops with those in the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity to find out what’s im­por­tant to them.

She teaches them tech­ni­cal skills in sten­cil art and spray paint­ing, so they are then able to as­sist her in the ac­tual cre­ation of the mu­ral.

The artist said it’s an in­clu­sive way of bring­ing peo­ple to­gether.

“There’s such a dif­fer­ence be­tween doing a mu­ral your­self and stand­ing back and go­ing, ‘Yep, I’m awe­some’ whereas, go­ing in and work­ing with the com­mu­nity, build­ing re­la­tion­ships and cre­at­ing some­thing to­gether, there’s so much pride in that,” Sarah said.

She said this ap­proach helps her to meet many different per­son­al­i­ties of all di­verse back­grounds, which ul­ti­mately feeds the in­spi­ra­tion for many of her other works.

On a re­cent project com­mis­sioned by Queensland Rail, Sarah was joined by 18 “lively” assistants.

“I worked with the Red­lands Flo­ral Artistry Group – who were the most lovely bunch of ladies, it was like work­ing with a group of my mum,” she said.

“I did two work­shops with them. I taught them how to do up sten­cils and how to use spray paint. None of them had used spray paint be­fore.

“With their help I de­signed up the mu­ral and they all helped me put to­gether the wall mu­ral as a team.”

Sarah has taken this com­mu­nity con­cept all over the world, tar­get­ing coun­tries where women may not have equal op­por­tu­ni­ties. There she works closely with fe­males in the com­mu­nity, teach­ing them new skills and allowing them to ex­press them­selves as in­di­vid­u­als through her project Women on the Wall.

On her most re­cent trip to Kath­mandu in Nepal, Sarah said she was shocked to learn many of the lo­cal women had never picked up a paint­brush.

“We go into com­mu­ni­ties who don’t of­ten get the op­por­tu­nity to see art. I usu­ally li­aise with some­one from a women’s group there and we talk about what voice they want to have and what they want to talk about,” Sarah said.

“Then I de­sign some­thing up, I usu­ally just do an out­line and then we run an event where all the women come out and ac­tu­ally paint on the wall. We usu­ally run this in com­mu­ni­ties where women don’t have as many op­por­tu­ni­ties that we do here.”

“I am a huge fem­i­nist and I love find­ing ways to let women speak for them­selves. I think giv­ing some­one a cre­ative voice is so im­por­tant.

For a busy mum who’s run­ning all over the state (and the world) to keep her cre­ative business thriv­ing, Sarah said her own cre­ative voice is nour­ished by the sup­port of her hus­band Mogzy (Michael) and four-year-old son Koda, as well as her sup­port­ive band of friends in­side and out of the in­dus­try. When Sarah met her hus­band, she was caught up work­ing the corporate life­style and ded­i­cat­ing more than 12 hours a week of train­ing to her roller derby team. “I met my hus­band at a roller derby game in Bris­bane. It was my fi­nal match be­fore I re­tired,” Sarah said.

“He is the brother of one of the girls I skated with. Good tim­ing. He did a ter­ri­ble karaoke num­ber at the af­ter party and won me over.”

Liv­ing in a house with an artist isn’t easy, ac­cord­ing to Sarah. She said quite of­ten there are paint pots all over the house, adding an ex­plo­sion of colour to its aes­thetic. Some­times her hus­band will have to move the fur­ni­ture around to make way for her large can­vases and sten­cils.

“The boys are such an amaz­ing sup­port. Both of them are the most pos­i­tive, up­lift­ing hu­mans you will ever meet,” Sarah said.

“They both al­ways want to help – keep­ing me com­pany dur­ing mu­rals, car­ry­ing sup­plies, giv­ing me en­cour­age­ment. My son brought me home a flower from a bike ride the other day and gave it to me be­cause ‘I had worked so hard on my lovely paint­ing’.

“Mogzy is colour blind, but that doesn’t stop him from say­ing things like ‘I love the colours – what colours are they’?”

Af­ter re­lo­cat­ing to the Sun­shine Coast six months ago, Sarah’s business, her stu­dio and lit­tle fam­ily are be­gin­ning to settle in at their new home.

But so far it’s just the be­gin­ning of one ad­ven­tur­ous jour­ney.

I AM A HUGE FEM­I­NIST AND I LOVE FIND­ING WAYS TO LET WOMEN SPEAK FOR THEM­SELVES. I THINK GIV­ING SOME­ONE A CRE­ATIVE VOICE IS SO IM­POR­TANT.

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Sarah Scul­ley work­ing on a piece in her stu­dio in Nin­derry. BELOW: Sarah Scul­ley with a fin­ished piece of work, Adele. BOT­TOM RIGHT: Women paint­ing for the Women on the Wall project in Nepal. BOT­TOM LEFT: The Red­lands Flo­ral Artistry Group help­ing Sarah create a mu­ral for Queensland Rail.

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