Modern Woman

"THAT will be two dollars please, two more if you'd like a program and we have raffle tickets that are also two dollars, or three for five."

By the time my shift was over on the desk at Brandon Hall (the Anglican Church hall) I had my spiel down pat.

It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning, helping out with the Coraki Art Prize.

Before Circus Girl had turned four, her inner art critic had already surfaced ("that doesn't really look like a frog"). She recognised what I have known for years, I have about as much artistic talent as our Great Labrador, whose attitude to art could be summarised as "if I can't eat it, chase it or cadge a pat off it then it's not worth my attention".

However, country art prizes need those of us who are frightening with a paintbrush because we can help out on the door, wield mops, nail things and do the thousands of other jobs that go with putting on a community event.

This year the woman who chairs the art prize had a serious illness. She is a force of nature such that trees bend to her charming will and hail melts to her generous laugh - also she is so organised and together that she manages dozens of volunteers, hundreds of artists, sponsors, council employees, caterers and politicians without getting anyone offside. No mean feat in any community organisation, let alone one that involves art.

Her commitment to the art prize is so deep that she was dictating emails from her sick bed when she was supposed to be recuperating.

Family members juggled hospital visitations with spreadsheets and fulfilling hundreds of jobs without complaint. One of the former chairs of the Coraki Art Prize bravely climbed into the breach and everyone mucked in.

Opening night was filled with laughter and the sounds of old friends greeting each other and new acquaintances being formed.

And, of course, everyone's an art critic.

One of the other fantastic aspects of country art prizes is the breadth of art. Realistic and abstract paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints and works on paper; wonderful photography and my favourite section: youth art.

There really is something for everyone.

Sitting on the desk, while the cheerful church people sold scones and sandwiches for morning tea out the back, gave me a great opportunity to eavesdrop and observe.

People came in small groups, by themselves or with their families, paid their two dollars, looked at the artworks and commented on which they liked best. I didn't hear one negative remark, which either means they kept it them to themselves or I've developed a useful aural filter of negative deafness (if so, I'll never have to hear Tony Abbott or Christopher Pyne again).

When Circus Girl, the Great Labrador and my husband walked up to check out the exhibition and collect me, it was a perfect end to an uplifting morning.

Community, art and family - a simply inspirational combination.

Topics:  opinion

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