Ovens & Murray Advertiser
Artistic creativity is for everyone
SHEA O’Keefe has been a practising artist for more than 20 years, exhibiting locally and across Australia and her passion for bringing out the best not only in herself, but in her studio artists is infectious.
From an early age, Shea realised that creating art was the best way to process her emotions, express herself and heal and it has been the foundation of the majority of her artworks.
“I began facilitating programs and workshops in the community in my mid-20s to help others to use the power of creativity in the same way,” Shea said.
“Many years ago I facilitated an art program with local youth at risk here in Wangaratta and this program was really where I formulated the structure of how I assist people in their art making.
“A little over six years ago I began an art program specifically for people experiencing mental ill health.
“The program became such an integral part of some of these people’s lives and it was really quite obvious to me that I needed to continue to provide the service to the greater community.”
And so it was that Artmania Wangaratta was born, moving into their lovely upstairs studio in Reid Street a little over two years ago.
Operating in partnership with Connextions to enable people supported by the NDIS to access the service, Artmania provides a supported, safe environment where creativity and goals can be freely explored and achieved.
Studio artist Steve 2 Hats has been with Shea for four years and said that creating art is relaxing and makes him feel peaceful.
“Coming to Artmania with my dog Pixie gets me out and around other people,” Steve said.
“I enjoy being in here and doing my artwork and getting Shea’s help.
“I never used to paint till I came here and now I have been in exhibitions and sold my work too.
“It makes me feel proud of myself and my family is proud of me too.”
The inclusive studio welcomes all people and all creative endeavours with the artists having the freedom to work in whatever creative platform sparks their interests - whether visual art, sculpture, printmaking, jewellery, crafts or music.
Considered to be outsider artists - or artists who have never been formally trained - they are motivated by their own unique personal vision.
“As a facilitator, my role is very much guided by the individual and their vision,” Shea said.
“I assist by showing them what tools and materials are available to give the look and feel of what they want the end result to be whilst showing some ‘tricks’ for them to try along the way.”
Studio artist Paul Crush said that painting makes him feel peaceful and gives him balance in his life.
“Having the opportunity to be a resident studio artist has given me the chance to improve my art skills and confidence,” he said.
“I get a feeling of pride when I learn a new skill and satisfaction when I finish a painting.”
She said they were very much focused on having both personal and community outcomes for the artists.
“This includes exhibitions, commissions and sales of their work, market stalls, exposure of their work through social media platforms and for some who are here for music expression that might be the public release of their music,” she said.
“We aim to consistently engage with the community to celebrate the merits of our fantastic artists with us.”
Thanks to the Wangaratta Art Gallery, the studio artists are currently sharing their work with visitors in the foyer of the Wangaratta Performing Arts and Convention Centre (WPACC) through the Visual Mixed Tape exhibition.
The artists were given a brief and workshopped their ideas in the studio to formulate their individual concepts for the theme, which was to create a piece of work that expressed how a certain song or piece of music made them feel.
“This exhibition was quite an exciting challenge for some artists, who have not created work for a specific themed exhibition before,” Shea said.
“For others, having the opportunity to build on their experience of working to a brief was really helpful.”
Running in conjunction with The Red Line Sonic Adventurers exhibition by JOLT Arts, Melbourne, 11 of Shea’s studio artists took the opportunity to create some wonderful pieces of artwork.
“Over the years I have witnessed such a positive change in the lives of the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, whether that’s been through the opportunity to make art, exhibit and sell their work, or to be known as artists in their own right.”
Artmania runs Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 4pm during school terms, in 10 week terms and would love to welcome more creative people join the studio on single or multiple days during the week.
The Visual Mixed Tape exhibition runs until March 8 in the foyer of the WPACC and The Red Line Sonic Adventurers exhibition runs in Gallery 2 at the Wangaratta Art Gallery (next door to the WPACC) until April 8.