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Kate Talks // 15 SEPTEMBER 2020

Art from the Heart

She’s talented, creative – and she’s also part of a group that is blazing a new trail for local artists in the online world.

Joel Gills has been part of Arthur Creative, an innovative program for artists run by Melba Support Services, for the past three… four… or even five years. It’s been a while and it’s been fantastic.

“I do photography, screen printing, and I do one-on-one work as well. I also do drama and a music program as well,” Joel explained. 

It’s a lot for one artist to fit into her schedule and now, mid-pandemic, Joel has been part of a successful move to take a lot of the in-studio programs and hold them online instead.

“We’ve had to pull back on a few of our in-person groups due to COVID-19. A lot of us haven’t been able to get in to do our regular programs. So now we have our workshops online. We have Matchbox on Wednesdays, and Voicebox on Fridays.

“We have about 10 people in Matchbox which is our drama group, and a smaller group in Voicebox, which is the music group. It’s working out extremely well for all of us involved.”

The focus of the Matchbox sessions at the moment is creatively working through the changing of the seasons and how people are managing the struggles of everything while being confined to their homes under lockdown. 

“A lot of the guys do drawings and painting. A couple in the group are working on dance pieces and choreographing those to the point of where we could maybe show it off say for example at the end of the year, or whenever the time’s right. We’re a very talented group. 

“We’ve been able to work through where we can still get work done, we’re still coming up with great ideas. With Voicebox, which is the music side of it, we’ve been writing songs. We’ve written about 10 or 11 songs.

“One of those is one I wrote about becoming an aunt during COVID-19, so that was my highlight and little distraction during COVID-19. So, that made things a little bit brighter for me. Welcoming the likes of a new life… I was very lucky to get to actually meet her, when she was three months old. She’s really cute!

“It’s all about how we deal with COVID-19 – whether it’s the birth of a baby, or the change of the season, a lot of our songs have come through how we feel and a lot of it’s quite heavy. It’s not just sweet sugar-coated stuff, and I mean that in a good way. It’s a bit full-on. We all feel overwhelmed and weighed down and all that kind of stuff because we’re not in the normal routine, and a lot of our normal routine has gone out the window because we’re not used to this isolation bubble that we’ve got happening. We all have different interpretations of how we feel about it all.”

Joel is in Ballarat where she lives quite independently with intellectual disability. Her two cats – Henry and Samson – have been helping her through the ups and downs of the global pandemic as well as her amazing extended family.

“I’ve got a pretty big family. I’ve got lots of biological and foster brothers and sisters. I’ve certainly got a lot of people that I can talk to, whether it’s my extended family or my next door neighbour if I feel I want a chat. 

“It hasn’t been easy, but you have to go with it and face it day-by-day. You’ve got to do your best with it.”

Arthur Creative supports artists with disability to explore their creative abilities or to build a career in the arts.  

Artists have been given the opportunity to display and sell their work at events, festivals and gallery pop-ups in the Ballarat area. The artists also hold their own Pop-up Markets to showcase creative products as part of the Arthur Range.


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