At Bubba West, we think one of the best things about Melbourne’s west is the spirit of community. There are several local organisations busily bringing diverse groups of people together in the pursuit of education, engagement, and enjoyment. Footscray Community Arts Centre is one of them, and has an exciting array of programs and activities on offer for everyone – from babies to the elderly. If you haven’t been yet, now is the time to check it out!
In our last interview, we brought you Footscray’s fantastic (and fantastical!) 100 Story Building, the social enterprise improving kids’ literacy and engagement. Now, we bring you Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC): a hive of local creativity where everyone’s welcome.
The pram-, child- and breastfeeding-friendly Centre collaborates with artists, the local community, not-for-profit organisations and others to run a huge range of arts activities, exhibitions and programs spanning circus, music, dance, design, and fine arts, to name a few.
The main gallery space, Rosyln Smorgon Gallery, within the main entry is spacious, with local community-based exhibitions frequently changing. Arriving at the Centre with prams was a joy; the wheels positively gliding over the polished concrete floors.
On our visit, several excited four year olds (and their mums) spent some time perusing the art on display, excitedly pointing out and discussing the works they liked best.
There were no solemn back-clad security guards, or snooty bespectacled gallery directors to shush the group or shoo them along – on the contrary, FCAC is all about engaging with all members of the community, and this includes kids. In addition to the curated arts exhibitions, the Centre’s cultural enterprise model is informed by engagement, collaboration and conversation with communities.
With local, national and international program outcomes, the Centre works closely with people with disability, Indigenous communities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, marginalised and disadvantaged communities, and the communities of Melbourne’s west.
The Centre offers exhibitions, performances, theatre, film screenings and concerts throughout the year, as well a contemporary arts festivals and events. FCAC also runs workshops, masterclasses and training programs. Their Learning and Development program contributes to FCAC’s goal of subsidised community programs for disadvantaged and marginalised groups, using funding generated from ‘fee for service’ workshops. The workshops contribute to the core programs, such as Emerging Cultural Leaders, the Indigenous Cultural Program, and ArtLife, a multifaceted day arts program for people with intellectual disabilities.
Among the workshops on offer, there are some great options for children, including Kids’ Circus Club and Toddler Music (both featured on Bubba West this month), Kids’ Animation, Acting Up, Dance Story Time, School Holiday Programs, and the brand new and very exciting Baby Has a Curly Line music program.
Bubba West spoke with Simon de Lacy-Leacey, FCAC’s Creative Producer Learning and Development, and one of the Centre’s 18 full-time staff.
He says that, in an effort to increase accessibility, some of the children’s progams are run by casual drop-in, requiring no prior booking.
‘As a parent, you might be having a bad day, and it can be hard to commit to a regular class, so our casual classes are very popular,’ says Simon.
The classes are intimate – most of the music classes run with 8–12 children, while the circus class holds 5–6 – meaning the kids get lots of quality interaction with tutors.
‘The Baby Has A Curly Line course is a new one we have introduced,’ says Simon. ‘There’s one class for the 0–9 month age group, and one for 10–18 months, with workshops running each term.’
Through sound and song, music-making, and a range of engaging multi-sensory activities, babies and parents learn new ways to nurture and extend children’s natural musicianship. Babies experience the surreal through the integration of Sydney Nolan imagery, combined with auditory, tactile, motoric and kinaesthetic elements (stay tuned for the in depth Bubba West story!).
‘Another program that we’re quite excited about is Dance Story Time,’ says Simon. ‘We’re working with Ausdance to combine dance movement and literacy. Tutors go through all the childhood favourites, like Alice in Wonderland, or Where the Wild Things Are, and bring these stories to life with movement, getting the kids to act out the parts of the story.’
These drop-in sessions are designed to completely immerse children (aged 3–5) in the story, while improving literacy and getting them active, too! At only $10 per child, these sessions make a great weekly activity to look forward to. For older kids, the GamePlay workshops have been popular, where kids aged 10–15 learn the basics of video game design through developing a platform or puzzle game.
‘While we run all these great programs that the public sees, a lot of what we do here goes under the radar,’ says Simon. ‘We’re all about working with the wider community and we develop a lot of partnerships. For example, we’re currently working with AMES (providing assistance to newly arrived refugees and migrants), with a Refugee Week exhibition in June, and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre; so, there’s lots going on!
‘It’s all about access for all – FCAC’s mantra for 40 years – and working with the wider community here in the west. We focus on working with marginalised groups, and our eventual aim is to have some subsidised places in each of the fee-for-service classes.
‘We already have some supported places in our school holiday programs, which are provided to people through the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre courtesy of support from the Bendigo Community Bank in Seddon. Our April school holiday program was so successful we had to turn people away. We hope to have more places available in future for single parents out there. We’d love to take our Toddler Music into an outreach program.’
FCAC also works with schools, providing art and culture workshops. ‘We recently had Baby Guerilla come in and do a paste-up workshop with high school students,’ says Simon. ‘The kids loved it and created artwork on the side of FCAC.’
While there is a lot going on behind the doors of the FCAC, there are also things happening in the local community. Perhaps you’ve been past the corner of Donald and Barkly streets in Footscray lately? There, you’ll see the start of the animated mural project, an initiative by artist Christie Widiarto, supported by FCAC through the Emerging Cultural Leaders program.
‘Christie’s idea was to combine stop-motion animation with the outcome of a mural to combat the graffiti issue here in the west. Christie’s told us that already some of the taggers have acknowledged what they’re doing and have said they’ll leave the wall alone,’ says Simon.
The wall mural involves painting repeated layers with slight changes to create the sense of movement, all captured in a series of photographs. The design will feature stories about Footscray. In particular, the project aims to give people aged 15–25 in Melbourne’s western suburbs the chance to contribute to the mural, learn animation, gain new skills through free arts workshops and connect with the community’s cultural leaders.
And there’s plenty more in the works at FCAC.
‘We’re looking at collaborating with PBS’s Rockabye Baby model here, as well,’ said Simon. ‘Live music for parents during the day time, so that kids can attend too. It would be kid-friendly music, but nothing like The Wiggles!’
With outdoor performance spaces, a basement gallery, perfect positioning beside the lawns of Happy River Café, and so much happening for the inner west’s littlest residents, Footscray Community Arts Centre will be on our list of favourite destinations for a very long time. See you there!Footscray Community Arts Centre
45 Moreland Street
Footscray Phone: 9362 8888 Fax: 9362 8866 Email: [email protected]