For Ability Links participants Mike Smith and Mathew Daymond, dreams came true on the first weekend in November when they were able to attend the prestigious Artstate 2018 Bathurst with the support of Ability Links Far North Coast (FNC).
The two men are artists with Lismore-based arts company RealArtWorks.Inc. Mike is a musician and songwriter who has been blind since birth, while Mathew is a visual artist and lives with schizophrenia. Both also have an intellectual disability, and both are passionate advocates for their community.
Artstate is a four-year project by Regional Arts NSW to shine a light on excellence in regional arts across the State. The Bathurst event was attended by arts practitioners, government bodies and people engaged in the creative industries across Australia, and showcased the best creative works that regional NSW has to offer.
Over the past two years Mike and Mat have co-led creative initiatives that were a direct response to the March 2017 floods that devastated Lismore. Working with RealArtWorks.Inc, Lismore City Council and Ability Links, the artists were part of ARCH (Arts Recovery Community Hub), facilitating free creative workshops for the community.
They helped develop ‘The Art of Doing Business’ in Lismore, a Creative Lismore and Lismore City Council initiative to reactivate flood-affected CBD shop spaces. Both were also key driving forces behind ‘The Overtopping Performance’, a series of community narratives about recovery and resilience that engaged over 100 local creatives and many more Ability Links participants.
Using their individual National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding packages, the artists have been able to develop their practice and be supported to travel and present their work outside their home on the Far North Coast.
Their presentation, ‘Creating Community Post-Disaster’, was flagged by Accessible Arts NSW as one of its three top picks for Artstate 2018. Mike and Mat were also the only artists with intellectual disability chosen to present at this year’s conference.
Mike on the left and Mathew (wearing glasses) on the right
Using an innovative technique of spoken word and braille, the men co-led sessions and presented the attendees with a poem (see below) that captured the discussions that happened in the room and that were particularly focused on the drought.
“It’s important for people to see and hear people with disability,” Mike says. “Many people still think people with disability can’t do things and they need to be helped to be better.
“But we can show you how we can help YOU build a better world, to be better people and to work together. Telling people’s stories through my music is a way we can understand each other and learn to be a better community of people.”
Both artists used the Artstate opportunity to meet and connect with other creatives and are currently working on a project that will be based in the NSW Central Tablelands, working with drought-affected farmers to tell their stories about community resilience.
Ability Links FNC is happy to support these men who are leading from the front, creating true social change through their practice.
Rural sights are the sound.
Rural sights are the sound
Art builds from the ground
Different communities have different ideas
See through eyes of each other
Does that make sense to you?
Everyone has got paint on them.
Paint the canvas of Life
Rain falls up from the sky
Words will rain from up high.