A five-week online art group offered by Advance Diversity Services has given ten older CALD LGBTQI people the chance to express themselves creatively and find friendship and support.

‘Research shows that older LGBTQI people from CALD backgrounds face discrimination, marginalisation and other challenges that place them at high risk of social isolation and mental health issues,’ said Dimitra Vourliotis of Senior Aged and Disability Services for ADS.

‘We wanted to create a safe space where older CALD LGBTQI people could come together and connect – using art as their outlet and focus.

‘We’ve had great feedback on our recent collage workshops run by artist and teacher Aaron McGarry, and know his sessions really hit the spot for people both socially and creatively.’

Artful Pride Club sessions ran from mid-October to early November and ADS is hoping to mount a small exhibition of the participants’ artworks at Hurstville Library.

‘Art creates a mindful experience by focusing on creating new works,’ said Sandra, who took part in the sessions and enjoyed their strong sense of community involvement, interesting information and friendly and engaging atmosphere.

‘Aaron is very professional in his preparation of the courses, with interesting PowerPoints timed perfectly to engage the audience,’ she said.

‘He is encouraging in providing feedback to participants.’

Jennifer said she’d found the group both fun and nurturing.

‘Aaron is a fantastic facilitator. He is a talented artist but, most importantly, he is a positive, empathetic listener who strives to include and nurture all participants on a personal and artistic level.’

Mr McGarry said creating collage was a good way to break down barriers because it was fun, easy and expressive. It also gave people unsure about making art the chance to be creative without feeling judged for their efforts. 

‘Look at the great works our group has come up with just by snipping, placing and gluing images in place to make a new picture.

‘There’s a table-setting made of jewels and a woman wearing a necklace featuring chillies as well as a headband draped with green beans.

‘All of the works are colourful and compelling – even those that are more abstract.’

ADS engaged artist and teacher, Aaron McGarry, to run collage workshops for older LGBTQI people from CALD backgrounds, which hit the spot for participants both socially and creatively.

Mrs Vourliotis said ADS has a strong track record in addressing the needs of CALD people who identify as LGBTIQ and was pleased to have jointly funded this year’s collage sessions with WayAhead – Mental Health Association NSW, a leader in mental health promotion and programs.

ADS had also applied for funding for 2022 from Georges River Council to run two sets of 10-week two-hour art sessions, each session followed by tea and conversation.

‘These funds will help us to continue to provide CALD LGBTIQ older people with the opportunity to meet others who share similar life experiences and to engage in creative, arts-based activities, Mrs Vourliotis said.

‘The mediums we’ll offer will be guided by participant interest – for example linoleum printing, ceramics and painting. We’re hoping to partner with local councils to exhibit participants’ work locally.

‘Our aim is to see people forming new friendships and connections, and learning new skills.’

‘We really want to use art, and the conversations it can inspire, to combat people’s isolation and improve their mental wellbeing.

‘LGBTIQA+ communities account for more than ten percent of the Australian population so it’s important for us to be offering these services in the suburbs, outside of the Sydney city centre.’