Kirsten Wehner describes her cross-sector residency exploring the cultures of Weston Creek as ‘transformative’. She arranged to undertake it part time and really responded to UC’s prompt to expand her thinking, resulting in a plan for the next 3 years of her practice. This case study illustrates the transformative power of bringing different people and organisations together.
Kirsten’s increased confidence and enhanced sense of the legitimacy of her practice supported the development of Catchment Studio, an affiliation of five artists working with the creative cultures of ACT’s waterways. Kirsten sums up her residency experience in this way:
… to be part of a program that takes so seriously the idea that creative arts based research and practice is about engaging with this really wide cross-sector group of people … The questions about how creative arts knowledge and arts research can bring those people into conversation, to have that as the centre of the program, is astonishing.
Catchment Studio in partnership with ACT Southern Catchment Group secured an ACT Environmental Grant for Finding Weston, Considering Country to progress these ideas, and to apply them in a specific context.
Strong relationships – initiated, developed and enhanced – are the engine of the outcomes achieved across domains and are key to the success of Kirsten’s residency. This relational work takes time and expertise, as well as appropriate structural supports, such as her residency provided. Kirsten describes this work of relationship building:
I have this very strong vision in my head of a kind of loose weave basket … which sort of holds all these relationships together. And I think being able to essentially devote the time to sort of doing that weaving, that actually is what I mean by structural, so that is something that will continue on … those relationships are established now.
The naming of a residency in Cross-sector Engagement is a powerful way of signalling the significance of a creative practice like Kirsten’s. Her residency also demonstrates the way creating art with and for everyone is closely related to developing cultural practices at all levels, as the Minister’s Statement of Ambition for the Arts anticipates. Her artwork ‘On beauty’ (illustrated and discussed in a review published by CBR City News), made in collaboration with residents of Weston Creek, invites us to see the beauty of this hard-used space, and positions perceptions of beauty as key to stimulating and sustaining practices of care.
An important personal outcome for Kirsten was the decision, post-residency, not to return to her very outcomes-driven leadership role in the arts sector. She hopes that her new role as Senior Fellow in Environment and Culture at the National Museum of Australia will enable more of the exploratory and engaged work developed during her residency in Cross-sector Engagement.