Western Sydney artist, Alissar Chidiac, receives the prestigious Ros Bower Award, worth $50, 000, for an outstanding, life-long contribution to community arts and cultural development.
In a career spanning 30 years, Alissar has worked extensively with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, especially Arab Australian communities. She is well known for her work on the Wattan Project at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, which provided Arab communities a sense of cultural engagement and self-representation in a major cultural institution. Alissar’s unique approach redefined the concept of ‘outreach’ and ‘curation’ at the museum.
Her support of the Auburn Poets and Writers Group and the Auburn Art of Arabic Calligraphy Group was crucial to the success of these acclaimed initiatives. Alissar’s commitment to passing on her knowledge has ensured that the next generation of cultural workers are equipped to create work with communities that speak to their specific concerns and dreams.
“Alissar Chidiac is a highly gifted and inspiring cultural worker,” says Kathy Keele, Australia Council CEO. “The impact of her work has been felt deeply by those involved, particularly amongst the communities who have felt alienated in recent years during turbulent international events. She has a truly collaborative approach, respecting those she works with, while inspiring and guiding them to produce excellent, meaningful artworks that tell their stories.”
Two young artists also jointly receive the Kirk Robson Award for the achievements of young Australian artists working with communities to produce art about social issues.
Poppy van Oorde-Grainger is renowned for her versatility and creativity. She’s completed over 30 artist residencies across Western Australia and worked with marginalised young people in the UK, producing film, installations, performance and more.
Regardless of the location, situation or resources, Poppy’s impact on communities is extraordinary, generating excitement, self-esteem and a sense of belonging. The artworks created are equally impressive, with many presented at the Perth International Arts Festival, London International Festival of Theatre, Artrage and AWESOME Festival.
Fellow Kirk Robson Award recipient, Yanni Scott Davis, has worked with young people in detention centres, young mothers and fathers, young Aboriginal people and young Australian Muslims, mentoring and delivering programs in digital media, music, circus, theatre, hiphop and graffiti art.
Through his music workshops, Yanni has encouraged young people who struggle with literacy and ignited in them a desire to learn more words so that they can express themselves through writing better songs.
A testament to Yanni’s work is that he has maintained strong relationships with many of the people he has reached through his programs, some of whom have gone on to mentor others.
“It’s truly exciting to watch the work of these two young artists,” says Kathy. “It clearly shows the power of art in affecting change in the lives of young people, but also gives us a sense that the future of community arts is in very talented hands.”