The Art of Healing

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Kirk Robson Theology and Arts Memorial Prize

The Kirk Robson Theology and Arts Memorial Prize supports artists and projects engaging faith through the arts. In recognition of the ground-breaking work of Kirk Robson (1978-2005), the fund supports projects characterised by Community Cultural Development principles and practice and an artistic engagement with theology. Reconciliation with Aboriginal people is a significant focus of the Fund. 2016 represents the 10th year since the fund was established.

This year’s recipient is Gordon Traill, Veteran Peer Support Worker with Creative Ministries Network (CMN), UnitingCare, Armadale, for his proposal to establish a photography and art exhibition, focusing on ‘healing’. As Gordon suggests, “For those who have experienced trauma, Art Therapy is one that has been proven by a number of studies to be effective in dealing with the after effects of war and trauma. Whether you are a survivor of abuse, war, natural disaster, or another traumatic event, art therapy will likely be able to help you heal”.

CMN is a unique organisation that provides arts-based programs and experiences for current and former members of Australia’s military service and families. Gordon himself is a member of the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacekeeper Veteran’s Association (APPVA) and the Geelong RSL. He is an Art Mentor for the Australian National Veteran’s Art Museum (ANVAM) and holds a Diploma of Education from the University of Melbourne. Gordon’s dynamic interest in photography assists him in his recovery from physical injuries sustained in Iraq and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  He was a member of the Australian Defence Forces for 30 years and although he may be a long way away in time and space from the horrors of war, the sights, sounds and scents are never too far away, memories at the ready to trigger the senses. Such is the reality of living with PTSD. However,  Gordon asserts that “There is emerging evidence that creative arts/photography can help ground veterans as they concentrate on something enjoyable and help relax them in a friendly and safe environment.”

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For the exhibition, veterans and the broader community will be encouraged to take photographs, produce artworks and reflect in them as a means of retrieving and expressing inner feelings. The expression of these feelings, in short poetic statements, will also facilitate healing. The exhibition will address issues related to soldiers who have returned from two recent wars and will look at the broad social conditions that have contributed to stress and pain, while also looking at personal impacts on soldiers in their lives after war. From a ‘church’ point of view, Gordon hopes the exhibition will “stimulate discussion surrounding the church’s healing ministry and its responsibility in righting wrongs”.

Time may not heal all wounds but devoting time to helping others in similar pain and wresting something beautiful and creative from one’s own pain certainly helps in the journey towards healing. As Gordon notes, “The accessibility of arts therapy is due to the focus being not on artistic outcomes but rather on the process of creating…it is through the use of the individual’s senses that the imagination can process, flourish and support healing.” Gordon Traill is a testament to this edict and a most worthy recipient of the fund. His portraits convey such a depth of emotion, as maps of the life journeys we travail. Gordon spends time with people before taking their photos, so he may learn a little about them and capture some of their life story in the image. He explores many photographic genres but is always drawn to the human side of his work.

The exhibition will be held at Armadale Uniting Church, KinRoss House and Geelong RSL, around Anzac Day 2017 and is certainly an event to look out for. A catalogue will be produced and smaller exhibits, sampling some of the artworks, will show in local businesses and shops.

For those interested, there are a number of grants and scholarships available through the Centre for Theology & Ministry. Visit our  funding and scholarships webpage for further details.

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