New Carlton gallery exhibits the “future dreaming” of incarcerated First Nations artists
The Torch’s inaugural exhibition at its new gallery on Elgin St will see Future Dreaming - visions of the future come to life from November 2 to November 24, featuring artworks from first-time painters as well as seasoned participants of its program.
Established in 2011, The Torch program “supports First Nations people in Victoria whose lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system”, providing opportunities through art to “define new pathways for themselves upon release from prison.”
“The Torch program was built upon the foundation of Indigenous knowledges, philosophies and support processes that have been developed, taught and embraced for generations,” creative director for The Torch, Kent Morris said.
“The men and women in the program continue to inspire and shape the program via their voices and experiences, which are deeply listened to and respected.”
The exhibition will feature more than 250 artworks created within 14 correctional facilities, “representing First Nations cultural groups from all across Australia.”
The exhibition’s theme calls on each artist to interpret their own meaning of Future Dreaming, with some works dreaming of returning home to their kids or making amends, while others touch on the idea of reconnecting to Culture and Country when they are released.
There are also 10 artworks in the exhibition that explored the Voice to Parliament and what it meant to them.
Artworks in the exhibition will range from $230 to $330, with 100 per cent of the commission going to the artists directly, providing a unique opportunity for participants to earn a small income while incarcerated.
“Some artists who created their work while in prison have been released recently,” marketing coordinator for The Torch, Bobby Yung said.
“They’ll get to see their art on display and it’s something they can be proud of, it’s also something for the artists’ families to be proud of as well.”
While First Nations Australians make up less than 3.2 per cent of the Australian adult population, 30 per cent of the national adult prison population is representative of First Nations people.
“The Torch has a positive impact on [reducing] recidivism rates among First Nation peoples in Victoria,” Mr Morris said.
Only 17 per cent of The Torch participants return to prison after released, compared to the national average of 51.5 per cent.
The Torch’s post-release program supports artists’ integration back into the community, building their “confidence and self-esteem” to “help break the cycle of incarceration.”
“Support is tailored to each person and includes assistance to continue their cultural learning, foster new artworks, and connect to arts industry opportunities,” Mr Morris told Inner City News.
Chris Austin is a Gunditjmara Keerraaywoorrong artist and mentor at The Torch as well as a previous participant, demonstrating the impact the program can have on turning an individual’s life around.
“In the past, I was a crook, a jail bird, but now I am an artist – my daughter is so proud of that, I never used to think of myself that way,” Mr Austin said.
Artworks will be available to purchase from 6pm on November 2 at the exhibition space as well as through their online catalogue, which also features a variety of other items available to purchase throughout the year.
The Torch gallery is located at 146 Elgin St and will be open between November 2 to November 24, Wednesday to Friday from 1pm to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 2pm. •