100 Wonder Place create multi-platform arts events for children and families that can happen anywhere: a park, community centre, city square, shopping mall, or festival. They engage communities, and create placemaking activities through interactive, accessible and innovative art experiences. Their events inspire people’s imaginations in new playful ways, and offer an opportunity to slow down, have fun, and enjoy connecting through art.
Gabrielle Griffin spoke with Lucinda Davison about the work 100 Wonder Place do, the community response and influence, as well as the importance of these initiatives in regional NSW.
LD: How did the idea for all of this spark with the three of you?
GG: Valley and Claudie have an interest in art with children, Claudie is the Learning Officer with Lismore Regional Gallery. Valley has children and makes children theatre, so it was natural for us to create a festival and art event for children and families. I (Gabrielle) love working with them and making theatre, I was more than happy to come along and see how we could make this work. The three of us have worked together for a long time, collaboratively, we also work individually, which all feeds into how we make this.
LD: What have been the most rewarding ways 100 Wonder Place has connected with the community?
GG: The three of us may have different answers for this one! We’re all excited about our community coming together intergenerationally. We have everyone from mothers with babes-in-arms to the CWA (Country Women’s Association) and knitting Nanas and it’s exciting to bring all of these people together. We’re able to see people helping each other, sharing their creative skills – it’s the unexpected connections we enjoy seeing. I think that is one of the rewarding aspects we would all agree on. Going for a heartwarming community atmosphere, this is very much a free, accessible. Family friends and lady across the road they don’t know
LD: How has your community shaped your vision and intention for 100 Wonder Place?
GG: I guess, living in a regional area and an environmentally aware community, upcycling, reduce reuse and recycle are big motivating factors , we try to get our sources (for workshops) from second hand places or donations, we use products from the land. One of most popular workshops is a bamboo cubby house. We cut bamboo on a friends farm and we clean by putting it in friends pool, it’s all a community event. A recent pozzible campaign saw the generosity of the community and with tight funding we try to keep it at a free entry to the event, we could charge, but we want to help and with the 25 volunteers working with us, it make this accessible to the community. This area is quite independent, we don’t want it to be mainstream, we’re breaking away from that. Part of this is that we provide AUSLAN interpreters, wheelchair access, we make it as inclusive as possible, it’s how it is here
LD: It’s impressive that your operations automatically include the means for disability inclusivity, it is a rarer trait in many other arts communities.
GG: We have an active disability arts, we work with these ideas and it’s second nature, you’re deaf and blind and of course you have to come!
LD: Why do you feel that initiatives like this are so important for the arts in regional New South Wales?
GG: It’s important, because it offers an alternative model to the commercial, market driven options. Like theme parks or weekend parties at McDonalds, for children and families. We’re building audiences, art appreciative audiences and you have to start with children and families. Our long term dream is to have kids coming as a toddler and a primary schooler, volunteering being involved, and growing up with this here. All decisions we make are with long term sustainability in mind which is very important in our region and in regional NSW. We’re well supported by the regional gallery and the council, they can see that art is important and without the funding in regional areas they help to make it available. We really work with the community, like our Play Dough dinner party, with the creation of 40kg of play dough made in a backyard, which was so popular and fun at the event. We set the day in the park and we involve as many community groups as possible, we’re proud of where we live.
This is great for the region and area to connect and make. We run a tight show, we have profession expectations, we want to set the bar as high as the city we just have to build from the ground up. That is so important in the making of a sustainable arts community.
LD: How do you feel 100 Wonder Place facilitates this?
GG: We employ local artists, we run workshops by local artists. We try to make it a working sustainable model. This is important for the arts, especially here, we set the president of it being professional. As much as we work with our community and we all pull together, we all have bills, we all need this to work. If I was a lawyer it wouldn’t be the case of being expected to work in many of the ways we in the arts are expected to work. With all the arts cuts we know it will be hard to chose the arts as a career we need to make it work. This is why we feel it is so important we set that precedent and that we maintain that professionalism. We need to make sure young people here know that the arts can be a viable career.
LD: How do people find out more? How do we engage further with you?
GG: Well, I (Gabrielle) am the social media queen! We’re active on Facebook and people are always welcome to email us or contact us on Facebook if they want to be involved, volunteer, or if they want to contact us with workshop ideas. We’re always looking for people to run workshops and to skill share.
NB: This interview has been transcribed
Images courtesy and copyright of 100 Wonder Place
Interview originally published 23 October, 2016