Arts not a "Lifestyle Choice"!

At the end of last year I was super pumped when I was accepted into an exclusive Mastermind program, a program that other people were turned away from, to be personally coached by multi-published (nationally and internationally) Award-Winning Journalist and former investigative journalist, Tanya Targett.

Tanya’s training will help me to gain publicity for my business, by helping me with media releases, one-on-one coaching Skype calls, a personalised media game plan, and most importantly for me- someone to hold me accountable, motivate and support me, inspire and energise me. I’ll also be a part of 12 monthly group Mastermind sessions and have access to the online Mastermind group. I’ll also be doing Tanya’s Winning Publicity Formula training, and learn her business strategy, and receive feedback on many aspects of my business.

Many of you seeing this may know that I’m a Visual Artist and you may know my artwork, or know me from life drawing sessions, you may have come to one of my drawing courses or trained with me as a life model or participated in one of my exhibitions or events. Maybe you’ve come to one of my Hen’s Parties or you know me from my work at Access Arts or Jane du Rand’s studio.

What many of you won’t know is that back in 2011, with the support of my family and some awesome social workers from the Mater Hospital and Child Health, I was encouraged to seek domestic violence counselling and then supported in going through the harrowing process of taking out a protection order against the father of my children, with whom I had been in an abusive relationship for 5 years. I was a shell of a person, extremely socially isolated and struggling to get out of bed every day. I had been through 4 pregnancies in 5 years, two of which resulted in my beautiful children. I carried so much pain day to day that I was barely functional. I endured not only severe psychological and emotional abuse by my former partner but was also bullied by his friends and family that he had pitted against me for his own amusement.

Before I ended my relationship, with the help of the social workers, I made a plan for myself- a plan to get back to life. I hadn’t worked for a long time and my confidence was shot. I had stopped making art almost entirely, save for a few small drawings and collages over the course of several years.

So I began going to life drawing sessions once a week, this was a way for me to get out of the house, get a break from my young children, do something I loved and eventually, over time, it became a way of meeting some like-minded people and make new friends. One of the people I met, Nick O’Shea,  who has since become a dear friend of mine- ran Grace Art Events life drawing classes on Wednesday evenings in West End. He knew that I was keen to get back to work and as he was working full time, and a practising artist and driving all the way from Wynnum in peak hour traffic every week to run Grace Art Events, he was thinking of letting the business go.

In January 2013 Nick sold me Grace Art Events for the bargain price of $1. For $1 I inherited a lease at Kurilpa Hall for Wednesday nights- with about 4 regulars coming to draw, two boxes with tea things and some extension cords, drawing boards and some ice cream buckets to lean them on, a basic website and a Facebook page with 120 fans. I was still really struggling day to day in my personal life. I had two very young children and was suffering from severe depression and anxiety. Running one untutored life drawing session per week was about all I was capable of and even that was a big deal for me at the time, but running the session gave me a sense of purpose and building up the numbers at the class gave me a challenge. So I set to work.

Since I bought Grace Art Events in 2013, I have now run 238 Traditional Nude Life Drawing Sessions, 94 Costume Life Drawing Sessions- hiring burlesque performers, circus performers, musicians, actors, designers and artists as our models. At one point Wednesday nights got so busy that I was running out of space and so I took on a second night on Thursdays.

In 3 years, I have organised 13 different Exhibitions and Events, I have run 7 Life Model Training Sessions, 3 Six-week Beginner Drawing Courses and one Beginner’s Drawing Intensive Day. Last year, fellow artist Loni Mills and I held a massive studio sale of our work, I’ve run numerous workshops and Life Drawing Sessions for schools, festivals and events- including events as part of the Brisbane Fringe Festival, Northey Street City Farm's Winter Solstice and Vegucation Markets and Village of Light Fundraiser, The Celebration of the Female Form Exhibtion and a number of events run by the Petri Dish, and donated work to raise money for a number of causes- including medical bills for certain artists facing difficult times, cancer fundraisers and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. I have also organised numerous dinners before drawing for our Meetup group and hosted numerous Life Drawing and Burlesque Hen’s Parties. I’ve grown our Facebook page from 120 fans to 1455 fans, started a Meetup group which now has 846 members, started the Grace Art Events Creative Network- a Facebook group with 508 active members, built a new website, and recently set up an Instagram account which now has 165 followers.

Since taking on Grace Art Events I have also worked as a contractor making ceramic elements for Jane du Rand’s large-scale ceramic mosaic artworks for both public and private commission that were installed in the USA, the Netherlands, Melbourne, Sydney, South Africa and Ashford Castle in Ireland as well as working part time at Access Arts as an Assistant Facilitator at the community Visual Arts Workshops and the Brisbane Outsider Artists Workshop for artists living with a disability.  I am also a current member of The Brisbane Collective- a volunteer based arts initiative that supports emerging creatives in South East Queensland through pop-up art exhibitions, workshops and a creative street press magazine TBC, I’m currently training with Jeff Walker and learning how to launch products online- a method that has proven successful for many other artists and creative entrepreneurs and this is all on top of my first job- which is being a single mother to my two amazing kids.

When Tanya Targett said she wanted me to join her mastermind group, I was a bit overwhelmed. I was honest with her and told her that I couldn’t really afford to do it, but I would find a way. In 2011 when I moved into my current home, I couldn’t afford to live here, but I moved in anyway, as it was a home that was going to be safe- it was up on the first floor where the father of my children couldn’t come banging on the window of my bedroom, in the middle of the night in a drunken state and wake me and my babies. It was clean and wouldn’t make my daughter sick, necessitating repeated hospital stays like our previous home had. So I found a way to pay for it.

I couldn’t really afford to buy my business Grace Art Events either- while it cost me $1 to buy, I paid for the weekly life drawing session to run for the first 6 months- out of my single parent pension. My children and I survived on food provided by the Salvation Army, Lifeline and The Wesley Mission and most of my son’s third birthday presents came from the Salvation Army too. But through running Grace Art Events I discovered, that there are a lot of people just like me. There are lots of people who haven’t been creative for a long time and are just returning to it after a long break- and they’re not necessarily confident in their abilities and they want a safe space with no judgment and some encouragement. I found that a lot of people, just like me, just wanted to put one work up on the wall at a group exhibition and feel proud of what they have achieved. I found that there are a lot of people who suffer from anxiety and depression and other mental illnesses who come to life drawing for the social connection, to meet other like-minded people who have the same interests and passions and to get lost in a state of flow and forget the world exists for a couple of hours. And I found that there are lots of people- just like me- who just love to draw!  So rather than seeing it just as my business, I now think of Grace Art Events as a community of people who come together around art and creativity.

I drafted an email to Tanya a couple of days ago, telling her how disappointed I was to have to pull out of the Mastermind group, as this time, I just didn’t manage to step up and the financial strain was going to be too much. As part of the Mastermind, I have to commit to going to a trip to the US in April and I just couldn’t see how I was going to pay for a year of coaching, flights and accommodation to Arizona and expenses while I am there.

And then… I saw an article in The Age about One Nation candidate David Archibald who apparently “claimed there were a number welfare programs that should be slashed because they support "lifestyle choices that could be defunded”. He goes on to discuss single “mothers”; not parents, but “mothers”, saying "These are women too lazy to attract and hold a mate, undoing the work of possibly three million years of evolutionary pressure.” "This will” according to him, “result in a rapid rise in the portion of the population that is lazy and ugly.” He goes on to say that, “everyone who gets pregnant outside of marriage is a volunteer.”

As if that wasn’t enough, he went on to attack people living with a disability saying, that “a good proportion are able to drive cars, bash police and each other, go fishing and so on.” Whatever that means! 

These disgusting comments from Mr Archibald are not long off the back of comments from our Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, who described training in the creative arts as a “lifestyle choice” before cutting loan support for more than 50 arts training programs across the country. He went on to say that “As the government’s priorities are related to demonstrating economic outcomes, they say that their preference is for technology programs and agricultural science courses related to the STEM education model”. (Stem being Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

In the last 3 years I’ve created 332 freelance jobs for life models, 94 of which were costume sessions that created jobs for local performers, actors, musicians, artists and designers, meaning I’ve paid over $23,000 to creatives just as models for my two weekly classes. I’ve also hired artists, models and performers for Hen’s Parties and school workshops, course facilitators and life drawing facilitators, and that’s when I was running my business part time.

So I changed my mind. I ditched the draft email to Tanya and I made this page. Because I want to be a part of this Mastermind group- I want to be coached by a strong, successful, single mother who runs a six-figure business and I want to learn from her how to do the same. I want to continue to build my community of artists and be able to share with them the things that I learn. And I especially want to be able to share my knowledge with those artists living with a disability, to help them better share their amazing talents with the world. Because no one wants to live off welfare, including me.

And I’m doing something that I’m not very good at- but I’m learning to be better at- and that is, asking for your help. I am so grateful for anything you can give. If you can make a donation, no matter how small, it will help me to be a part of Tanya’s Mastermind group, it will pay for my coaching and my flights, accommodation and expenses to Arizona. It will help me to help other artists and creative people to share what they do with the world. If you can’t make a donation, you can still help just by sharing this page with as many people as you can.

A donation to this campaign is a donation towards changing people’s attitudes; attitudes about the value of creative work, attitudes about the value of the work of outsider artists and those living with a disability, attitudes about the value of women and the value of mothers beyond being pretty or submissive. Because these are the reasons that I want to be a part of Tanya’s Mastermind group.

So please, if you can, press the button and donate what you can. Tanya believed in me and I don't want to let her down, I don't want to let my artists down.

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  • Anonymous 
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Sarah Greenwood 
South Brisbane, QLD
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