After re-watching The Art of Resilience videos with my family over Christmas, I had the time to reflect on what had been an amazing experience.
From the vantage point of the successful completion of the project, I could see the array of colourful, exciting and sometimes poignant stories revealed.
Amid the spectra of drought, bushfires and Covid-19, the youth of the Parkes Shire embraced The Art of Resilience competition. While the global outlook was downcast and uncertain, I saw enthusiasm and a desire to be heard.
The creation of the prizes heralded new experiences for the winners and highly commended awardees. Being ushered onto a full-sized film set could have been a daunting prospect but the nerves were soon overcome as we laid out the stories we had planned for each artist and their art work.
With proud parents watching on, these young people blossomed before our eyes. Their answers to my questions were thoughtful and revealed a generation who were knowledgeable about the world they live in and who displayed an understanding of and empathy for others.
I heard stories of struggle and hope. The students finding learning difficult through traditional teaching methods. Some of these had discovered that learning was easier for them through art or visual representations. This is powerful knowledge.
To understand how you learn best is the opening to new possibilities. There were some young people who were finding it hard to fit in. Being accepted for who you are is a fundamental right. Who wants a world where everyone is the same? Surely, it's the differences that make it interesting. And there were some young people negotiating the tricky business of growing up in a sometimes, confusing world.
It was abundantly evident that support was paramount. Support from families, schools and friends was the key to these young people achieving success and realising their potential.
I was also privy to the plans and dreams for the future. Like the girl who rebuilt her childhood cubby house and turned it into an art studio. She wants to be an engineer. The boy who loves cars and wants to be a mechanic so he can earn money and buy a farm because, ultimately, he wants to be a farmer.
The boy who wants to be a photographer for National Geographic. The boy who can strip an engine and rebuild it, and has completed two years of a TAFE course in building while at school, he wants to be a builder. The girl who wants to be a veterinarian and has already located a spare block of land in Peak Hill's main street. She wants to eventually buy it, build a vet clinic and return to Peak Hill as the vet.
The boy who has designed his own logo, had it embroidered onto jumpers and caps, and has already set up a paying business providing aerial filming of properties and farms with his drone.
One of the consistent threads woven through the entire process was the importance of the arts to the youth of the Parkes Shire. They talked about how the arts let you express yourself. Some of the comments were, "it's my sanctuary, a place I can escape to, it's my happy place, I feel calm when I'm doing art, it's relaxing, I can be myself, there is no right or wrong way, I can enjoy myself."
Young people recognise the value of the arts. They understand their worth and the important part the arts play in well-being and mental health. I agree. The arts are vital for sparking and developing creativity. Something that our world needs to help it overcome some of the problems we are facing. But they also nurture a sense of self and community, important components in the development of resilience.
Since the completion of The Art of Resilience project, I have heard how some participants and their families had felt uplifted by the experience and some young people have repositioned their choices for the future. I know The Art of Resilience has been instrumental in reconnecting some families.
These are pretty monumental outcomes that have exceeded my expectations.
As I revisit and reflect on The Art of Resilience, I think it is safe to say that the arts are in good hands in the youth of the Parkes Shire and the future looks promising. As a community, I believe we must continue to build on this momentum. We must value and protect the arts and in doing so, develop a strong, creative and connected community.
I would like to acknowledge the support of the federal government, Parkes Shire Council, Neighbourhood Central and the Parkes Services Club. I would also like to thank the youth and the families of the participants for their co-operation and enthusiasm.
To view The Art of Resilience, go to YouTube and type in Parkes Shire Council, The Art of Resilience. There are two videos. One is a microdocumentary about the project and the other is the video chain of the winners, highly commended and special mention film clips.