Swan Hill’s young artists shine

A world without art would be lifeless; an abyss of nothingness, grey and colourless.  It would be starved of expression, like a blank canvas with no paint. Rid our lives of art and you would strip away the very essence of our human existence.

No more radio. No more movies. No more karaoke. No more singing in the shower. No more newspaper or magazines to ponder. No more music. No more dancing. No more school concerts. No more ring a rosy. No more decorations. No more photographic memories. No more reading. No more theatre. No more freedom to express ourselves. No more passion. The list goes on…

And as the third Youth Arts Festival – and its team of passionate young local volunteers and artists – coloured Swan Hill’s main street on Saturday with pride and joy as they showcased their various artistic talents, I was left with a feeling of gratitude and relief. Our lives are simply better with art.

Swan Hill were treated to a smorgasbord for the senses on Saturday as local youth revealed hidden talent in both performing and visual arts at the annual Market Day in Campbell Street.  With a range of performers gracing the stage – from bands, singers, musicians and dancers, to the unique beat boxing crowd pleaser – street goers were wooed as they went about their Saturday morning shopping in harmony.

However, the entertainment wasn’t restricted to the stage. In addition to the thorough planning and selection of a diverse range of performing artists, the enthusiastic and dedicated Youth Arts Festival committee of approximately 15 young people also set up an Art gallery in an empty shopfront for the public’s pleasure. After undergoing a rigorous art selection process, the team of committee members carefully crafted the exhibition of youth art with precision, and the finished product was striking in appearance. Hundreds of eager visitors came to browse the eye-catching walls and revel in the clever art space they created.

Even more staggering, is that this entire event was organised by young people under 25. Youth Support Officer Nellie Patterson believes it is a great chance to celebrate youth talent in our area, giving youth a chance to shine in the arts. ‘Young people don’t always have a great reputation, but there’s all this great stuff out there and it gets them involved in the community.’ Working on this team project for over two months, committee members Kayla Young and Natalia King learnt a lot from the experience. Kayla said it was ‘great to be part of something and help out,’ while Natalia enjoyed the community experience.

Not only has being on the committee given these young people a chance to help out in the community, but it has also given them event management skills and experience that will be invaluable as they tackle the working world. Brodi Purtill, who has been the event MC for two years now, said, ‘it has given me more confidence and experience in public speaking.’ Youth Arts ambassador Kaylee Whitfield concurs. ‘We have learnt new leadership skills and how to organise events.’ But more importantly, she says, ‘we have all become mates.’

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New band Twenty18 consists of committee members Tiana and Kaylee, as well as Jock on the drums.

The Youth Arts Festival fills a void in a community that is dominated by sport, and gives those young people with unique and slightly non-conforming talents, a platform to express themselves within their community. One in four young people aged 16-25 will experience mental illness during this period of their lives, and with statistics as alarming as these, it is wonderful to see Swan Hill embracing our budding young artists as they colour our streets with creative expression and joy.

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At a time when many VET Art courses and their future funding are on the chopping block, Saturday’s overwhelming collective effort from the young aspiring artists in our community would make anyone question its validity. Just like our youth are encouraged to pursue their sporting dreams or be scientists and doctors, they should be encouraged to create art for the world’s enjoyment. And this is what the Youth Arts Festival provides.

For a world without art, is a world without a heart.

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