Vinnies’ Creative Space, located in Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands, has become a well-known community arts hub. Established in 2017, the space has enabled many community members, known as ‘makers’, to learn skills, create art, and share creative knowledge. “It’s about more than art - I can be myself when I come here”, one maker has described. “This time is so valued by me – it’s my “me time” in the week, a little oasis of calm. I have an autistic son, so my home life is full-on and not restful at all. Doing something creative, even though it’s only once a week, just lets me rest mentally,” described another.
When the COVID-19 lockdowns commenced in 2020, Creative Space was unable to run its workshops and classes. For many makers, the connection to Creative Space provided a sense of connection and wellbeing, allowing for new opportunities and the development of friendships with other like-minded people. To facilitate makers remaining connected to Creative Space the concept of Personalised Creativity Packs evolved.
Despite being closed, Creative Space kept operating with a remote model, offering contactless pickup from Vinnies’ services as well as mailed options for those not able to leave home or with transport challenges.
The Creativity Packs came in the form of beautiful brown paper bags, filled with art supplies and ideas. Each pack was tailor made to support the interests and skills of each maker, thus avoiding the cookie cutter approach to a generic art pack. Personalisation of the packs was achieved by notes on post-its, pre-stamped water colour postcards that could be sent to a loved one and art materials that connected with each maker. The Packs were sometimes delivered through Homelessness and Housing Vinnies’ services, who were able to continue operating through the lockdown.
In a time where lockdowns had placed enormous strain on individuals and families, the Personalised Creativity Packs kept makers engaged and supported. One maker described the Creativity Pack as “a godsend”, saying, “I’ve filled the whole sketchbook you gave me!... I’ve been drawing outside in the garden like you suggested.” This highlights the wellbeing components that were fostered through the initiative.
Another maker was able to collect their Creativity Pack via Vinnies’ Southern Highlands Homelessness Service, where they were also able to access several pantry items, highlighting the value of Vinnies programs working together to provide holistic support for clients. “Thank you so much for the art pack! …Can’t wait for an end to lockdown! Keep safe and well!” Art classes and workshops will soon resume at Creative Space and the value and opportunities discovered through the Personalised Packs will continue to be incorporated into the service ensuring those unable to attend for any reason now and into the future will continue to be connected into a support creative community.