Community spirit as Lismore floods

Artists soothe pain of flood devastation

ART is one way the people of the Northern Rivers are recovering from devastating floods.

Paper-maker and screen printer Heather Matthew, of Pottsville, took part in the It Takes a Town community art project in Murwillumbah on April 30, inviting people to draw their own artistic contribution onto a white tablecloth.

"I really wanted to do something to respond to the floods," Heather said.

"It was a great community bonding experience."

Heather's own studio at South Murwillumbah was flood-damaged.

"We'd probably been in there for five years," she said.

"There were two other artists in there. They've now left.

"My daughter and four-year-old granddaughter live upstairs.

"My daughter saved my screen prints. I lost all my photographic equipment.

"There's enough to start again."

Paper-maker Heather Matthew holds up works of art created in the aftermath of the March floods.
Paper-maker Heather Matthew holds up works of art created in the aftermath of the March floods. Yvonne Gardiner

Heather had no flood or contents insurance for the studio.

"No one was prepared for the reality of this flood," she said.

"We got a text at 2am on Friday morning (March 31) to evacuate but my daughter had left about 7.30 on the Thursday night.

"The water was already up to my daughter's chest on the ground floor.

"We could have lost so much if she hadn't put stuff up."

Heather lost "peripheral" stuff - paint, studio furniture - and the motors on her papermaking equipment were damaged.

The first she saw of the flood damage was on Saturday, April 1.

"When I walked into the studio, I was just shell-shocked, just walking around and around in circles," she said.

"The street was just full of people chucking stuff out.

"People were pouring in saying, 'what can we do to help'."

The clean-up took four to five days.

"I eventually have to relocate,' Heather said.

"I would be hesitant to put good equipment back in there."

Arts Northern Rivers has partnered with Common Ground Byron Bay to support a crowd funding campaign to raise funds to support artists affected by the floods.

The goal is to reach $10,000 in donations and then to distribute these funds to artists or creative businesses which have lost essential materials or equipment.

Applications for up to $500 for individual artists and up to $1000 for sole traders or small creative businesses are open. Visit www.artsnorthernrivers.com.au for details.

During this year's Murwillumbah Art Trail (MAT) from May 25 to 30, more than 90 artists will be exhibiting at more than 20 sites.

For more information, go to www.themurwillumbaharttrail.com.


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