15 June 2023

Artists draw on youngsters' natural inspiration for Ginninderry project

| Sally Hopman
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KIds with two adults

Artists Dinah Vandermeys and Al Phemister with the youngsters involved in the Ginninderry project. Photo: Supplied.

Back in 2019, young people involved in the Ginninderry SPARK program – a training and employment initiative – built a barbecue area, a community place where people could gather, talk and eat.

The SPARK program, in partnership with the Canberra Institute of Technology, offers a wide range of courses to help people get a start in fields like hospitality, construction, business administration and childcare.

The Ginninderry project proved to be a great start and is scheduled to become part of Strathnairn Arts, but a little more creative help was needed. Enter artists Dinah Vandermeys of Canberra and Al Phemister of Yass.

For Dinah and Al, their vision for the project was aways going to be connected to the environment, and to the people who lived there and would use the facility.

“We began the project with a series of student workshops,” Al said. “With them, we explored local flora and fauna native to the area of Ginninderry.

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“The students went on to draw and record these plants and creatures and these drawings became the source of design and inspiration to be implemented into the area.”

To introduce the natural element, Al and Dinah worked with conservationists who were helping to save and relocate much of the flora and fauna in the Ginninderry area. Then they worked with two local schools – Kingsford Smith and Gold Creek – exploring the different wildlife in the area as inspiration to update the recreation area.

“They introduced many of these examples to kindergarten students at the local school, Kingsford Smith,” Al said. “These students then drew pictures of the things they saw and these drawings were turned into stamps.”

Some of the finds included dragon flies, old snake skins and turtles.

Two people on coloured wall

Artists Dinah Vandermeys and Al Phemister at the newly repainted site. Photo: Supplied.

Al said high school students from Kingsford Smith helped by making the stamps into terracotta tiles which formed part of the barbecue refresh.

They were also inspired by the work of acclaimed Australian landscape artist Elioth Gruner when it came to decorating the walls of the barbecue, depicting areas of the Murrumbidgee River and Ginninderra Gorge.

Dinah, who teaches as well as practices art, said the Ginninderry project was a joy to work on, describing the site as “a hidden treasure”.

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“I love working on community projects,” the Kaleen-based artist said. “And this project is so special – it just needed a bit of a refresh.

“I had done a few workshops with Al – I love working with non-traditional materials … we did a recycling workshop together.

“We both saw Ginninderry as a special place and since the refresh we hope to see more people out there enjoying the place.”

The Link Barbecue Refresh exhibition is now on at The Link Art Space, Ginninderry, until 25 June. Open daily.

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