This mural breathes new life into an old Esperance school building

This mural breathes new life into an old Esperance school building

Matthew Tomich

What’s the best thing to do when you’ve re-purposed an old building at your school?

For a group of girls at Esperance Senior High School, the answer was simple: make it beautiful.

Photo by Anna Bonney

With the help of artist Jennell Reynolds and support from Esperance Community Arts and Country Arts WA’s Drug Aware YCulture Regional program, the school’s Girls Academy building is now adorned with a stunning mural titled Going Somewhere.

The Girls Academy – which opened its Esperance chapter in early 2017 – is a nationwide leadership program, founded by ex-Perth Wildcats player Ricky Grace with the goal of empowering young Indigenous women through mentorships, education and community development.

The mural is a┬árepresentation of their journey through six years of secondary schooling and beyond – a continuation of the school’s Songlines mural and garden space, which was funded by Drug Aware YCulture Regional in 2016.

Like all Drug Aware YCulture Regional activities, the mural was driven by two young Project Coordinators, Jeliaha and Alidea. The duo contacted were responsible for the grant writing process, budgeting, acquittal and sponsorship. They enlisted Jennell Reynolds – a local artist who also works as the Aboriginal Arts Coordinator at Esperance Community Arts – to run a series of workshops, where she taught the Girls Academy students about designing large-scale public artworks, the meaning behind the colours and symbols they’d be using, and how to incorporate the diverse range of cultural backgrounds into the final piece.

Photo by Allira Henderson

The mural did more than develop the girls’ artistic skills – it strengthened the bonds between peers and teachers, and taught Jeliaha and Alidea about building relationships within their community, public speaking and working with the local media.

It wasn’t all easy – time management was an issue, and developing the mural took longer than the girls expected, and plans to paint the surrounding picnic benches in a matching style had to be postponed. Yet in a surprising twist, the demands of the project saw a number of participants volunteer extra time over the weekend.

“To get the mural completed we had girls coming on the weekend or staying after school to work on it. Some of these girls do not attend school regularly but were so excited to finish it that they came along. The mural has made us feel like our story is now entwined with the school and will help other students and young people to feel belonging.” – Jeliaha

Photo by Anna Bonney

With the mural complete, Jeliaha, Alidea and their peers are now looking towards their next arts project. They plan to apply for Drug Aware YCulture Regional funding again to create an Indigenous art trail throughout the school, incorporating young Indigenous artists working in sculpture, performance art and interactive artworks.

“All the girls involved in the grant application and project now know that if we set our minds to it we can apply for a grant to change and develop things for the better in our community. It gave us confidence to know that we are capable and can apply these things again in another project for the young people in our town.” – Jeliaha

Got a great idea for your own regional arts project? Get in touch – Drug Aware YCulture Regional could fund your project up to $6,000.

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