Go Admire and Get Inspired – at SALA: South Australian Living Artists Festival

So often the work of great artists of history are accompanied with the tale of anonymity in life, and fame after death.  What a lovely thing it is then to have an annual Living Artists Festival here in South Australia. Each year throughout the month of August our state comes alive with the work of current makers and visual creatives on display. We get to see art in our public spaces. It grabs our attention and usually our admiration. It can spark our curiosity. And we can have the opportunity for observation of the making process and for conversation with the artist him/her self. 

During SALA we can find mini-exhibitions dotted around in our usual environments like our local libraries and shopping centres – places where we can just come across art in the midst of our usual routines. For example, this week a stop off at a suburban bakery “Jeeze Louise” revealed an exhibition of striking black and white lino prints by 12 year old students from the local Walkerville Primary School. You can find this listed in the SALA guide.

You can also use the SALA guide to plan your visit to any number of studios, galleries and exhibition spaces that come alive for this festival each year across our state.

For example, on Friday I purposefully travelled 45 mins south of the CBD to visit a studio/gallery at Kangarilla for an exhibition of watercolours and mixed media artworks titled “Ode to the Flower” by artist Judy Garrard. See – https://www.salafestival.com/artfuel/program

Standing in the studio gallery there, amidst the artist’s framed original paintings, exquisite teapot cosies, cushions, plant art, and handmade and decorated photo frames, her amazing and prolific level of mastery as an artist and maker jumps out. We heard how the local artist’s collective and the SALA Festival offer avenues to share and display and sell that which she is constantly driven to create. 

We chatted with the artist over a cuppa and the topic of making and creating flowed, with my aging mother in law indicating how many artistic crafts she herself has turned her hand to throughout the course of her life – like cross-stitching church kneelers, making mosaic tables, china painting, floral arranging, and now in her 90s still beading beautiful pictures for framing. She spoke of her sister’s penchant for weaving and woodwork – not only teaching weaving at Barkuma in her day, but making the wooden weaving looms too. She had gone on to upholster furniture for fun later in her life.  And as we chatted, we were looking out into the wintry day over the colourful garden to where Judy’s husband was building a charming stone wall in keeping with the era of the original old dairy building where the studio is located.  Another example of humans taking the time to make by hand.

This studio/gallery provided an immersive experience – like a day spa for the spirit.  We left feeling refreshed and nurtured by all the beauty. We had certainly been reminded of the value of the human capacity to make things of beauty.  

An influential occupational therapist Mary Reilly is often quoted for her observation that “Man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health.” Delivered in her 1961 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture at the national conference of the American Association of Occupational Therapists, lets look past the masculinised language of the era to the intent of her message that our creative outlet through our handiwork can be an avenue for experiencing wellbeing, and I would add…. not just for the maker nor only in the making itself, but also for people who connect with the making process and outcome through observing and appreciating.

So this month as we start to shake off winter and feel the stirrings of spring within and around us, may I recommend you get out and enjoy any of the SALA exhibitions available at the moment. Its the perfect time to go get inspired as you admire! 

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