If you are observant when walking around central Camden, new vibrant posters are publicising a new exhibition at the Alan Baker Art Gallery Macaria in John Street Camden.
The posters are in all sorts of locations.
One of the most interesting is the back wall of the Oxley Street carpark.
The new exhibition is ‘Baker, The Artist, The Influencer’ and runs until September 2023.
The exhibition is the story of the Camden Art Group, which commenced sometime in 1972.
The art group started with local school teacher Ken Rorke. He was an art teacher at Camden Public School from 1961 to 1981.
As a keen artist, Ken asked artist Alan Baker to teach a Wednesday night class, which he refused, but he agreed to provide ‘advice and an expert hand’.
The experiences of the Wednesday night art group were quite varied and prompted some individuals to further their art careers.
The exhibition catalogue states:
Camden Art Group was comprised of a mix of people from all walks of life. There were local business people, high school students, teachers, mothers, fathers, forestry workers – anyone with an interest in art was welcomed and found a place for themselves among the friendly group.
The art group, usually consisting of an attendance of about 20 artists, fostered the creative talents of many people who have gone on to bigger and better things.
Alan Baker’s role was to be ‘an inspiring and charismatic force for the class’. (Ahmad, et al, 2018)
Rizwana found it interesting to compare her training in South Asian training with Alan Baker’s Realist technique and style. (Ahmad, et al, 2018)
Some were encouraged to extend their professional interest in art after being discouraged early in life. (Ahmad, et al, 2018)
There were other benefits from the art group included lifelong friendships, opportunities for professional development, the development of a collegiate artistic atmosphere, mentoring of local artistic talent, the creation of a thriving arts community that encouraged creativity, and several participants’ lives that were changed by art. (Ahmad, et al, 2018)
Baker, mentor, artist, and local identity encouraged the art group members to experiment and use a range of styles and materials, and their work is displayed alongside Baker’s art in the exhibition.
The exhibition catalogue states:
Sleek sculptures in stone and wood, commemorative busts, traditional oil paintings, drawings, and expressive watercolours hand side by side. These works showcase the impressive body of work created by the Camden Art Group in the years of the group meetings and, continuing beyond Baker’s death, into the present day.
The Camden art group’s ground-breaking influence and its collegiate atmosphere is still evident today.
Exhibitions of artwork by Baker and others create an atmosphere that fosters creativity and innovation. Art can catalyse economic activity, leading to new businesses and job opportunities.
Gallery 2023, Baker, The Artist, The Influencer. Alan Baker Art Gallery Macaria, Camden.
Ian Willis 2018, ‘Alan Baker, the artist’. Camden History, September, vol 4, no 6, pp242-247.
Rizwana Ahmad, Patricia Johnston, Olive McAleer, Shirley Rorke, Nola Tegel, and John Wrigley, 2018, ‘Alan Baker Art Classes’. Camden History, September, vol 4, no 6, 248-257.
Such a pretty tree-lined streetscape, full of old-world charm. I’ve often stood at that green paddock next to the church, with its views across the valley… locals are up in arms as online rumours swirl about moves by the church to sell the land…Right next to Camden’s most famous heritage landmark, an 1840s gem described by one government website as “a major edifice in the history of Australian architecture”.
Cr Banasik said this development opposed the shire’s ethos of rural living. The heritage of the area is amazing – there is Camden Park, Gilbulla, Menangle Store and the rotolactor site,” he said. This development just ain’t rural living.
Journalist Kayla Osborne reported the views of town planning consultant Graham Pascoe on heritage and the Vella family’s new commercial horticulture venture at Elderslie in the Camden Narellan Advertiser in May.
Mr Pascoe said the heritage nature of the site and its proximity to Camden had been well-considered by the Vella family…the land was ideal for farm use…the land has been farmed in the past…We believe we will provide a model…farm at the entrance to the Camden town centre.
The views on heritage expressed in these stories do not actually define heritage.
There is an assumption or a presumption that the reader understands the intended meaning of the word heritage in each of these contexts.
So what was the intended meaning of the word heritage in each of these articles?
To answer that question another must be asked: What is Camden’s heritage?
What is heritage?
The term heritage is not that straight forward. There are a range of definitions and interpretations. The term is not well understood and can raise more issues than it addresses. Jana Vytrhlik, Manager, Education and Visitor Services, Powerhouse Museum (Teaching Heritage, 2010) agrees and says:
To start with it is a useful exercise to say what heritage is not. Heritage is not history. Historian David Lowenthal says that
Heritage should not be confused with history. History seeks to convince by truth… Heritage exaggerates and omits, candidly invents and frankly forgets, and thrives on ignorance and error… Prejudiced pride in the past… is its essential aim. Heritage attests our identity and affirms our worth.
The word ‘history’ comes from the Latin word ‘historia’, which means ‘inquiry’, or ‘knowledge gained by investigation’.
History tells the stories of the past about people, places and events. History is about what has changed and what has stayed the same. History provides the context for those people, places and events.
History is about understanding, analysing and interpreting the past based on evidence. As new evidence is produced there is a re-examination and re-interpreting of the past. History is about understanding the why about the past.
Meaning of heritage
The meaning of heritage is not fixed and historian Graeme Davison maintains that the history of the word heritage has changed over the decades.
Initially heritage referred to what was handed down from one generation to the next and could include property, traditions, celebrations, commemorations, myths and stories, and memories. These were linked to familial and kinship groups, particularly in traditional societies, through folkways and folklore.
In the 19th century the creation of the nation-state, capitalism and modernism led to the creation of national myths, national stories and national heritage.
ln the 1970s, the new usage was officially recognised. A UNESCO Committee for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted the term ‘heritage’ as a shorthand for both the ‘built and natural remnants of the past’.
(in Davison, G. & McConville C. (eds) ‘A Heritage Handbook’, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards NSW,1991)
Heritage can be categorized in a binary fashion: cultural heritage/natural heritage; tangible heritage/intangible heritage; my heritage/your heritage; my heritage/our heritage.
What is significant about Camden’s heritage?
In 2016 the Camden Resident Action Group attempted to have the Camden town centre listed on the state heritage register. The group obtained statements of support which outlined the significance Camden’s heritage. Statements of support were from Dr Ian Willis (UOW), Associate Professor Grace Karskens (UNSW) and Emeritus Professor Alan Atkinson.
In these days of fake news and social media hype people have lost trust in many public institutions. Social media is king and the prominence of news can be driven by clicks and algorithms.
Trust is difficult concept to define and measure. It is a fragile belief that people and institutions can be relied upon to be ethical and responsible. Trust is critical in the effective functioning of a democracy.
It is more important than ever that there are sources that are trustworthy and produce credible evidence-based information, particularly around scientific and cultural issues.
Dr. David J. Skorton is the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC states in reference to recent controversies:
More and more, the trustworthiness of information is based on the perceived trustworthiness of the source. Libraries and museums are considered honest purveyors of information and places for conversation on issues of local and national significance. Today’s museums are dynamic learning hubs, using the power of art and artifacts to engage, teach and inspire. Museums touch lives and transform the way people see the world and each other.
One group of trusted institutions are museums, galleries and libraries, and within these are local community and folk museums, pioneer villages and house museums. They are genuinely authentic.
The landscape of local museums is one of the characteristics of rural and regional Australia. These local museums are managed and conducted by a host of local community organisations. According to the National Museum of Australia there are over 1,000 local and provincial museums across Australia.
Local museums tell local truths and are trusted sources of local stories and histories. Local museums are stores of memory that are built on nostalgia and contribute to well-being of the community. They are sites of volunteerism and strengthening of community. They promote local tourism, local employment, skill enhancement and training opportunities for local people.
Centred on local history local museums are not fake. They are are honest and straightforward. What you see is what you get.
The local museum tells local stories about local identities and local events, and are driven by local patriotism, parochialism and localism. They celebrate local traditions, myths and commemorations.
The local museum can vary from world class to cringingly kitsch, from antiquarian and to professional. Individuals create them from ‘mad ambition’ and shear enthusiasm.
For all their foibles they can build trust within a community. The local museum can help to build resilience through strengthening community identity and a sense of place. Local museums are a trusted local institutions, contribute to a dynamic democracy and active citizenship.
This post was originally published on the ISAA blog.
The CHN blogger was out and about at the 2017 Camden Council’s Volunteer Thank You Reception at the Camden Civic Centre.
This is an annual event put on the Camden Council and the mayor Lara Symkowiak. This years those attending volunteers were welcomed by the soulful tunes provided by saxophonist Will from Camden Council.
The event MC was Sarah from Camden Council, which also supplied eats and drinks a plenty for the assembled throngs of volunteers. A number of council staff and councilors attended the evening.
There were over 220 representatives from 53 voluntary groups present from Oran Park, Narellan, Camden, Gregory Hills, Cobbitty, Macarthur, Harrington Park and Catherine Fields.
Mayor Lara Symkowiak addressed the audience and said, ‘volunteers make a difference in the community and that the evening was a thank you by council’.
The mayor said, ‘It was an opportunity for volunteers to be served rather than serve’.
One volunteer thanked the mayor for the recognition and the evening. She replied, ‘It is better that the council put on a thank you evening rather than a ball which would only compete with balls by other organisations’.
Camden voluntary sector
The Camden community has a long history of volunteering. Voluntary organisations go back to the mid-19th century and one of the first was the Camden Farmers’ Club and General Improvement Society set up in 1857. It became the Camden School of Arts in 1858 which centred on the provision of a library and reading room.
Current community organisations in the Camden Local Government Area are listed in the Camden Community Directory which has a number of categories of organisations. They include: Accommodation and Housing; Animal Services; Community Facilities; Conservation and Environment; Education; Employment and Business; Equipment; Financial Support and Low Cost Goods and Services; Government; Health and Wellbeing; Information Services; Law and Justice; Sport and Leisure; Transport; and Volunteering.
Benefits of volunteering
Studies have shown that volunteering is good for a person’s well-being and health. It reduces risk of depression, provides a sense of purpose, provides mental and physical activity, reduces stress levels, provides the ‘happiness effect’, and provides opportunities for overseas travel.
Volunteering builds social capital by encouraging social interaction, social networks and networking opportunities between people and strengthen personal and emotional support, choice (sovereignty) and power. Volunteering builds community resilience and community cohesion and strengthens the local community.
In Australia according to the Queensland University of Technology there are around 600,000 voluntary organisations which made up over 3.5% of Australian GDP in 2012 with an annual growth rate of 6% per annum. The sector employed around 9% of the Australian workforce which total over 1 million people and it made up of the top 5 sectors which are social services, education and research, culture and recreation, health and environment. These organisations have nearly 3 million volunteers across the country.
The Voluntary Sector is usually comprised of organizations whose purpose is to benefit and enrich society, often without profit as a motive and with little or no government intervention.
Unlike the private sector where the generation and return of profit to its owners is emphasized, money raised or earned by an organization in the voluntary sector is usually invested back into the community or the organization itself.
One way to think of the voluntary sector is that its purpose is to create social wealth rather than material wealth.
Although the voluntary sector is separate from the public sector, many organizations are often tightly integrated with governments on all levels to support it in the delivery of programs and services.
Night finishes up
To say thank you to Camden volunteers the council gave those attending two small gifts, a succulent from Little Miss Succulent with funds going to Turning Point and a boiled Christmas cake from the Campbelltown Uniting Church.
Council provided entertainment for volunteers attending with music, a magician, an artist and a photo booth.
Music was supplied by Will on Saxophone on arrival, while Theo and Bel provided vocals and guitar on the main stage for enjoyment of all the attendees.
The evening ended with mayor drawing out the lucky door prize. The fellows from the Men’s Shed seemed to score most of the prizes but then again they had the largest group attending the evening.
A good evening was had by all.
So what is the take out of all this?
If you are thinking of volunteering for anything just do it.
Sometimes folk who want others to volunteer their valuable time really do not understand the needs of volunteers. They do not understand that volunteers time is valuable. Most people are happy to volunteer if they have a reason. Volunteers need to understand the reason they are volunteering. Ad-hoc volunteering is OK and often time is more valuable than money.
Volunteering is productive and good for you so get to it. What ever it is. What ever takes your fancy will all of the community.
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