Last week I returned to Ballina Public School to paint another mural, making 8 in total. This is the most I have painted in a single school. The fact is, the murals are working. On day one, a teacher told me that behaviour has improved markedly since the murals appeared. Plus not a mark on them. She told me that the students have taken ownership of them and are proud that their school cares about them enough to improve the visual learning environment. Then Sam Gibson, the school admin officer said that the auditor had told her that the money destined for my account, had been well spent.
My current project is underway but not quite finished. One day to go. It’s a beach cafe scene … because the school is starting a breakfast club and wanted a back-drop for the students as they re-fuel before a day of learning. This is typical of Ballina Public School. They think about the whole child and how they can make coming to school the best experience it can be. Photos will be forthcoming.
30% of Ballina Public School’s students are Aboriginal. I have a soft spot for the staff, especially Janet O’ Shannessey, the deputy Principal, who arrived from Bourke a couple of years’ ago and who herself has Aboriginal children. My connection to Aboriginal culture and people runs deep and I really value and appreciate the care and devotion I see in this school.
I have always had a vision for Ballina. One involving public art that depicts images of pre European settlement, stories past and the townships' future vision. I just think Ballina Airport shuttles visitors, many from overseas, directly to Byron and yet, in Ballina there is a strong Aboriginal community that has a history to tell and art to share. I have had meetings with the Aboriginal Council and Ballina Shire Council, both approve of the vision, so there is movement afoot.
The plan has always been for me to paint alongside Digby Moran, one of Australia’s finest Aboriginal artists and a man who had met me years ago in my gallery in Byron Bay.
So guess who appeared at Ballina Public School this week? Quite by ‘accident’ (if you believe in such things). He had come to paint the new yarning circle and was within cooee.