Exhibition marks one-year anniversary of Black Summer fires

Federal Member, Kristy McBain with Towamba Fireflies artists, Ky Whelan and Otillie Richardson standing by their works displayed in Eden Killer Whale Museum. Photo: supplied
Federal Member, Kristy McBain with Towamba Fireflies artists, Ky Whelan and Otillie Richardson standing by their works displayed in Eden Killer Whale Museum. Photo: supplied

An exhibition titled Looking Up and Around is currently open in Eden, marking the first anniversary of the Black Summer bushfires.

There is no question 2020 was a difficult year for everyone around the nation, and for Eden and surrounding areas, the year began facing bushfires approaching from the south and the north.

Small villages such as Wonboyn, Kiah, Pericoe, Towamba and Wyndham faced the threat head on, with Kiah alone losing around 40 homes.

This special exhibition at Eden Killer Whale Museum (EKWM) was officially opened on Friday, December 18, 2020 with president, Jack Dickenson, introducing special guests Vicki McCredie and federal member, Kristy McBain.

Eden Rural Fire Brigade's Rob Aucote and Peter Standen were among the small gathering at the official opening of Looking Up and Around. Photo: supplied

Eden Rural Fire Brigade's Rob Aucote and Peter Standen were among the small gathering at the official opening of Looking Up and Around. Photo: supplied

The exhibition brings together artworks, photographs and fire affected objects to reflect on the emotional experiences of the district, and the creative responses to the event.

EKWM collection manager Jody White said the exhibition was designed to be a reflective and commemorative display to mark the first anniversary of the Black Summer bushfires.

"One day we hope to be able to present an exhibition with a more detailed account, but for now it gives visitors a sense of what our region experienced and is also a reminder a lot of local people are still a long way from having a comfortable home or even basic facilities," Ms White said.

The hopeful title of this special exhibition, Looking Up and Around, comes from a bright piece of artwork created by 8-year-old Towamba artist, Ky Whelan.

What began as 'art days' facilitated by Towamba artist, Vicki McCredie, over school holidays evolved into over 60 paintings by the Towamba Fireflies.

"Those of us able to attend the opening could feel Vicki's dedication to the project and the love and care of the children and her community when she spoke of the project," Ms White said.

Towamba resident and art mentor, Vicki McCredie, spoke of guiding the children through the art process, and how they collected specimens and photographs as a base for their creative process while reflecting on the effects of the Black Summer fires on their local environment. Photo: supplied

Towamba resident and art mentor, Vicki McCredie, spoke of guiding the children through the art process, and how they collected specimens and photographs as a base for their creative process while reflecting on the effects of the Black Summer fires on their local environment. Photo: supplied

"It's been a special collaboration, local residents have donated fire-affected objects and shared their stories, and Towamba Public School, Vicki McCredie, the artists and ABC South East NSW - everyone involved has been outstanding in their support and assistance to bring it to fruition," Ms White said.

Looking Up and Around showcases eleven pieces which convey the loss, environmental impact and rebuilding of place, and hope, as interpreted by the children aged from five to 11 years.

A disfigured toaster, melted bottle and evacuee identification bracelets are just some of the objects complementing the artworks to bring together a varied but locally shared experience of the Black Summer fires.

"Visitors have been incredibly interested in the artworks and the stories written by the artists sharing how they created their pieces," Ms White said.

"They have also shown great interest in a photographic timeline of events experienced as an Eden resident and the interview with Kiah residents, Sue Norman and Mick Harewood, which ABC South East NSW generously allowed us to include in the exhibition space.

"We are inviting our visitors to leave their feedback on our Facebook page where a dedicated post for their comments is available.

"The exhibition is dedicated to all the courageous and caring volunteers, contractors and emergency services who faced the threat head on, and continue to provide vital support to our community impacted by the fires."

Towamba resident and art mentor, Vicki McCredie said that 12 months later, the children have moved on from the fires.

"We as the adults should take that lead from the children and move on as well," Ms McCredie said.

"Jody has done a sensational job - she's the first person who has put a professional show on with the Fireflies - the display is an absolute credit to her and the museum.

"The selection she made tells enough of the story and even though it's a small exhibition you could find it anywhere in any gallery in Australia, that's how beautifully she has put it together. She's done something quite spectacular," Ms McCredie said.

An online show of the full collection can be accessed from the EKWM website and full reproduction prints or cards of the artworks are available for purchase, with all funds going to the Towamba Public School's P&C.

The exhibition will remain on display until February 14.

See the museum website for more information: www.killerwhalemuseum.com.au

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This story Exhibition marks one-year anniversary of Black Summer fires first appeared on Magnet.