Victorian ceramicist Angie Russi inspires community groups to express themselves through art.

Story By Pepi Ronalds

As a community artist Angie Russi goes to schools, nursing homes, parks, community centres, local halls and more. she uses art- making to bring communities together, to help them re-engage and talk about identity, place, history and the future. The artworks take different forms. Kergunyah Dreaming culminated in an evening of performance and procession. Bute Utes was a mobile sculpture containing secret stories. in North Shepparton, angie helped the community to create tiles installed in a park. “community art projects are not just about the art,” Angie says. “The practice of community arts is based in activism. it’s about effecting social change though the artwork.”
Angie worked on Kergunyah Dreaming with the dairy town of Kergunyah, Vic, during the drought. “They’d been a very strong community,” she says, but the drought had tested them. she put out a call for stories about the district. “We sat in the hall with no heating and lots of hot cups of tea in our freezing hands, listening to these stories and writing them down,” she says. The group then brought the stories together to create a mythology and a performance.
The event took three months to plan and create. “it was based in a spiritual understanding of the community as people,” angie says. nature was at the heart of the story (it focused on a swan that nested nearby) but nurture was its goal. “it rebuilt and reignited a sense of coming together and the community’s own sense of power,” Angie says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #92

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2014