Creative Space Southern Highlands

St Vincent de Paul Society NSW’s Ability Links has successfully launched ‘Creative Space’, an exciting new art program in the Southern Highlands. It’s a space where people can learn new skills and art forms, access TAFENSW training, and build friendships in an informal studio space that is inclusive and accessible. Launched last month, the program has already attracted a range of people who are producing fabulous art and ‘want to be known as Creative Makers’.

The project grew from people identifying barriers to accessing local art programs. From further consultations and community conversations, a working group was formed, made up of Vinnies’ Linkers, artists, community members and partner organizations. The working group has collaborated to develop the program model, source a community venue, and launch and promote the program. Vinnies’ Ability Links has hired an Art Coordinator 3 days a week and are working towards the working group taking up governance ongoing. Members and local artists have also offered to run workshops, and Creative Space will be a part of the Studio Art Trail with a workshop scheduled for November 18th.

Peter Kazacos, the site owner, established a series of small, disability-focussed projects after acquiring the old Steiner school, now named Kazcare. Peter has been consulting with Ability Links on how to develop an inclusive approach within the programs. He is now linking participants across programs onsite, supporting local creative enterprise and has plans for creating a sensory wall / garden. Kazcare has also installed a boardwalk and other features in order to be wheelchair accessible.

Under the umbrella theme of ‘Share, Learn, Create’, there has been huge enthusiasm for creating art. The themes of health, diet and wellbeing have also emerged as hot topics of conversation among participants. The onsite Koori Kulcha Café employs a high proportion of people with disability and has a new lease of life. For the first time it is opening five days a week, and participants of all programs across the Kazcare site are enjoying the social opportunities and good food.

A fantastic new partnership with TAFENSW has been established and there is a lot of excitement around the free ‘Pathways to Education through the Arts’ course which will start in October, run by a Koori TAFE teacher. We are also excited to be able to offer free accredited TAFENSW Creative Enterprise and Community Arts Cultural development courses which are open to the whole community from February 2018, all establishing the Creative Space as a new arts education hub in the South Western region.

Ability Links is looking forward to developing this new inclusive model for the Arts that learns from past mistakes, draws on best practice and encourages ownership and sustainability. A participant has already expressed interest in joining the working group saying, “I have found my tribe”.