The time/art/space continuum

 

Over nine fortnights from early march to late June, ANVAM has been running a series of visual art workshops at the new Soldier On HQ on Royal Parade in Melbourne. Happily, participants have been generous enough to leave many of their gorgeous artworks to brighten the fresh walls of the designated art room at Soldier On, showcasing the various themes and materials that have been employed, from landscape to doodle art and collage to photography to paint. Each session has had its own character and energy, shaped by the shared concentration of the dynamically changing group. Often, apart from gentle music, there is silence as people enter their own imaginations, but there is also periodic conversation, mostly about the artwork or observations arising from it and as often giving voice to a sense of commonality and identification as to surprise or curiosity. A sense of pleasure and achievement has been a tangible end-note to each session so far – we love to hear people say ‘I never knew I could..’ and then immediately begin to plan their next piece: it inspires us in our personal artwork and in our work at ANVAM: a big thankyou to all our participants so far.

310 St Kilda Rd; A history to be built upon.

 

The founders of the Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM), have been asked a number of times “Does it have to be THAT build?”, meaning 310 St Kilda Rd, Southbank in Melbourne (#310SKR).

In responding to these question, it has always been a resounding “Yes!”, and this is why.

Opened on 15 November 1937 as the Repatriation Commission Outpatient Clinic, #310SKR was built explicitly for the survivors of WWI; to help the survivors endure their ongoing conditions almost 20 years after the end of the war. It appears that the extent of the challenges and suffering for veterans two decades after the end of hostilities remained so significant that a building of this scale was required. Evidence of the numbers of veterans to walk through the doors validates this perception with over 1,000 per week seeking medical treatment in the facility. This is consistent with the figure of 150,000 casualties to return from the war.

Such a direct connection in Australia to the survivors of WWI is not unique, but it is rare. What is perhaps even more unusual is the proximity of a place like #310SKR, dedicated to supporting military veterans and survivors of war, to a place ostensibly built in commemoration of those who died during war, i.e. Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. Literally opposite each other on St Kilda Rd, these two buildings also hint at a metaphor for the respective prominence Australia’s war dead has in our collective consciousness compared to survivors of war and of service. Arguably the relatively high focus on the dead can be traced to the survivors of WWI themselves due to the grief associated with the unprecedented high death rate.

To many veterans and families a connection to previous generations is important in supporting their identity as members of the military veteran community. The few opportunities to express this connection are often in places of solemn commemoration like the Shrine of Remembrance, the Australian War Memorial and other memorials spread throughout Australia. Other opportunities of connecting to previous generations are limited to attending the local Return and Services League sub-branch or military museums where displays of artefacts of war are put on display.

This building, nearly 80 years old, provides a unique opportunity for a permanent and, importantly, a living tribute to all survivors of war and of service. While sitting alongside the Shrine of Remembrance, #310SKR is rightfully, and like all veterans, understated and modest in the shadow of our places of commemoration to those killed while serving overseas.

More than this, #310SKR allows us to continue the role of the former ‘Repat Clinic’ as a place of healing for veterans. In its new incarnation, ANVAM aims to transform #310SKR into a modern day place of healing through the Arts and, in so doing, provide a further connection between veterans of all eras.

Further significance of #310SKR is its location within Melbourne’s Arts precinct, and adjacent to Victoria Barracks Melbourne. These two features, along with its availability, history, location, size and layout, make #310SKR unrivalled to be the Australian National Veterans Arts Museum.

Welcome to the ANVAM Blog!

Welcome to the Australian National Veteran Arts Museum (ANVAM) blog, a place to share our journey and passion of veteran Arts. We will provide regular updates on the progress of our various programs and initiatives.

The Arts experience of the Australian military and veteran community is a fascinating story. Starting as early as 1914 for the troops sailing from Albany to Egypt the journey continues to this day with an extraordinary array of artistic expressions of the lived experiences of our service men, women, veterans and families. Throughout this period the Arts have been a part of the wellbeing of our current & former servicemen & women.

Australia’s art history of the last 100 years is well represented by accomplished artists who have also served in Australia’s military. This year, the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign, we have sadly lost a number who have contributed enormously through the Arts in their own way.

Peter Rushforth served during WWII becoming a prisoner of war in Changi. From his Changi experience Peter went on to be one of Australia’s most respected and inspired ceramic artists.

Gordon Darling served in WWII in the 9th Division. Gordon’s vision and contribution to Australia’s arts identity, as an arts patron and through the establishment of the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery of Australia in Canberra cannot be overstated.

Alan Moore at 101 passed only months after reaching this milestone. Alan first served in the RAAF before being commissioned in the Army as a WWII war artist. Through the eyes of a serviceman Alan quietly went about his work that has only recently been recognised for its contribution to capturing the stories of his generation.

Finally Robert Dickerson served with the RAAF during WWII. He had an interest in art from a young age drawing throughout his four years with the RAAF. Robert turned professional at 35 after winning a competition prize that allowed him to continue one of his passions, the other being race horses.

ANVAM pays tribute to these veterans, and all veterans who have been prepared to serve for Australia. We also pay tribute to families; parents, partners and children of veterans. We also acknowledge those who have pursued their inbuilt urge to engage in, support and tell their stories, and our stories, through the Arts.

ANVAM’s own journey, while two years young, has been an extraordinary experience. ANVAM was established to promote the Arts as a unique approach for veterans to relieve the impacts of service. Moving ahead we look forward to bringing to our veteran community an awareness of the stories of the past from other veterans who have told their stories through their art. Perhaps more importantly ANVAM is committed to introducing and encouraging veterans and families everywhere to explore their own creativity and passion for the Arts.