• WINDO Sisters

How a paintbrush and a pen can help change women and our world

By Jeanette Dal Santo

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

I am often asked, "Why does WINDO present much of its content under the banner of the Arts or Arts practice? Why does it advocate that women’s empowerment needs to celebrate and embrace a creative self?".

For the past two weeks I have had the pleasure to be working alongside Dr. Nycole Prowse, Dr. Lisa Raith of Peripheral Arts and Dr. Trudi Flynn, all three women intensely creative and passionately articulate of their art forms.

‘The Story of Us’ workshops have attracted an intergenerational cohort of women and young girls, each exploring and sharing their imaginative and original stories. Each touching that intuitive sense of Self - the place where all things true, meaningful and creative dwells. Many believed they couldn’t write a line but its happening! The work is so interesting, funny and feminine.

This brings me to a point of consideration. Why if we just scratch the surface of our humanity do we crave the creative? Is it indeed because it’s an integral part of every human being? Given the opportunity most children and adults will find some sort of fulfilling response when given a pen, a brush, a lump of clay, asked to write a poem or provided space to move undisciplined to a piece of their favourite music and sing at the tops of their voices when the mood hits them.

Why is then so little attention paid to this most important aspect of our Selves and to the human experience? Even our education systems are culling their music and arts curriculum. What does this do to our cultural identity? What does it do to our ability to tap the innovative, the imaginative and resourcefulness of our humanity?

Sadly this inner drive to express is often stunted not just by our peers, teachers or family members but by governments and large corporations who sell us a culture of Earn and Spend. A loud and obtrusive public machine endlessly advocating that our children need their days filled with NEW things, whether it be new computers, iPads, iPhone or the latest in fashion. Aggressively promoting that we need to be continually stimulated by THINGS rather than finding that quite space to listen to our imaginative self and create.

So what does this produce over a period of time?

A one dimensional non-inspired human being often ill-equipped to truly embrace at a deep social, philosophical and spiritual level the challenges of change (be that personal or global). Even more challenging is the ability to develop a broader perspective our cultural identity.

I’m being very subjective here. I know. I can see the academics of our membership jumping up in arms with my personal views but this is only a short overview that will hopefully rouse some conversation. It’s not meant to be a scholastic debate. If you do a little research even on the web you will see that many academics and social scientists are discussing these points and opening up brand new perspectives of what it means to be a culturally progressive society with sustainable a future.

Culture now embraces every aspect of human interaction: from our family, community, our legal and political institutes, our work practices, social services, religion, recreational activities even through to our town planning.

Judy Spokes, Executive Officer for the Victorian Cultural Development Network, states that culture is both ‘overarching and underpinning’. In other words, culture is the rock on which our values, beliefs, attitudes, understanding and even technology is governed. And who sits at the bedrock of our cultural development? The Creatives and Artists within our society.

And so how are we to develop these future architects and prime movers of our tomorrow? Let’s start by supporting the environments in which our creatives move. By making sure our children have access to the Arts through their education and social environments. By having informed conversation about what is Excellence in whatever our children and indeed we ourselves are viewing or participating in.

One of the greatest things I learnt as a Drama Teacher was to encourage my students to be informed, articulate critics of their world (in particular the Arts). To question the quality of what they watched, attended or supported. If we understand what Excellence entails not just what society (or our peers) deem as quality, we are ensuring that the future of our world will be built on a sound cultural bedrock that enlivens our everyday life.

Finally I want to quote one of my favourite authors Jon Hawkes who states:

"The arts are the creative imagination at work (and play). Its techniques involve improvisation, intuition, spontaneity, lateral thought, imagination, co-operation, serendipity, trust, inclusion, openness, risk-taking, provocation, surprise, concentration, ……………..and (a) willingness to delve beneath the surface, beyond the present, above the practical and around the fixed. These are the aspects of human behaviour that social scientists have identified as ………the essential element of the survival of the species. A society in which arts practice is not endemic risks its future”.

- The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability

The present and future of our cultural identity expressed through our values, community environments, educational and academic institutions, public or civic life, rests not just within tiers of government and government policy makers but with the everyday citizen.

That’s you and me.

About this contributor

Jeanette Dal Santo, Founder & President of WINDO Inc., is a visionary pioneer and community leader who has created and run major arts, health and community development initiatives across Australia that find new ways to educate, inspire and develop collaboration across community and foster important community cultural and structural changes.

Contact her via windowomen.org

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