Monday, February 25, 2008

Parity Article July 2007

by Leigh Connell,
Co-ordinator Boarding House Project Newtown Neighbourhood Centre.

for Parity's July 2007 issue

"Rooming and Boarding Houses: at the crossroads?"

ROOMIES ARTSPACE was opened in October 2005 by Archibald prize winning artist Cherry Hood. It is a community non-profit artspace where boarding house residents and artists with mental illness or disabilities are able to attend workshops and work individually or with volunteer mentors to develop as individuals and practicing artists.

ROOMIES ARTSPACE is at the Addison Road Centre Marrickville located in Sydneys Inner West and is an area that has a high concentration of licensed and unlicensed boarding houses. For many years the Boarding House Project from Newtown Neighbourhood Centre has run various programs for residents of boarding houses and this includes an art group that has been running for the last 12 years. It became clear that many of the artists from the group wanted more than the fortnight gathering to pursue their art, this is where the art space has evolved from.

For those living in boarding house there is often little opportunity to engage in artistic activities, few opportunities for privacy and almost no funds to purchase art materials. ROOMIES ARTSPACE provides the opportunity to engage in artistic pursuits, a creative environment and a safe place for a coffee and chat. The space provides a physical space and the social and emotional support that is allowing many of the artists to flourish and earn some dollars. The annual exhibitions are now selling out and NSW parliament has recently purchased 2 ROOMIES ARTSPACE works for their private collection. Meanwhile other works have been displayed alongside mainstream artist in events such as “walking the streets” and in several well known galleries around Sydney.

ROOMIES ARTSPACE is funded entirely by donations, client contributions and Newtown Neighbourhood Centre. Donations have been received from National Australia Bank, a boarding house resident’s trust fund, Cutcliffe Gallery and the Marrickville Sketch Club and other local fund raising activities. We are applying for funds through various state and federal programs along with trusts and foundations for coordination of the space, a ramp for access and on going tutoring and materials.

Newtown Neighbourhood Centre has a strong record of innovative cultural and social activism, from running the Newtown Festival to advocating boarding house reform and welcomes the idea of supporting Boarding House residents.

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