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Building a Healthy Planet with the arts

Plastic Boutique’s community arts initiative connected communities across Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday regions and created employment for artists.



The Healthy Planet regional workshop project was a collaborative community arts initiative led by Margaret Burgess of Plastic Boutique for the communities of Mackay, Isaac and Whitsundays.

Focused on the local natural environment, the project presented multiple community art workshops. Participants used donated and recycled material to create bird and foliage sculptures representative of the local birdlife and flora of the regions.

Workshops were designed to be accessible and attracted participants from across a broad spectrum of ages, gender, abilities, cultures and artistic experiences.

The project culminated with a large installation at Mackay’s Caneland Central Shopping Centre. The shopping centre extended the initial hanging period by a further 12 weeks due to the positive public and tenant response.


Group of women with red hats sitting around table


When and where

June to December 2021 in three locations: Mackay, Airlie Beach/Whitsundays and Issac regions


Key stats

  • 10 local artists (established and emerging) worked with the workshops and installation
  • 84 workshops
  • 360+ artworks created
  • 15,144 attendee and participants


Artists and arts workers involved 

  • Margaret Burgess
  • Lian Meaney
  • Tracey Robb
  • Andrea Wright
  • Catherine Clark Dowden
  • Sue Riley Gee
  • May-Britt Mosshammer
  • Lupytha Hermin
  • David Conway
  • Steph Allen 
  • Donna-Marie Robinson artist employed to do the documentation/photographer 
  • Janice Quadrio (evaluation)


Image of a pelican


Arts Queensland investment

$54,471 through Round 3 of the Queensland Arts Showcase Program which supports the delivery of vibrant and accessible arts and cultural experiences for Queensland. 

The project also received funding through the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) from the Mackay Regional Council, Whitsunday Regional Council and Isaac Regional Council

RADF is a long-term partnership between the Queensland Government and local governments to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland. 



Strong and sustainable sector

  • Employment opportunities: Ten artists were engaged in the delivery of the project, creating new short-term employment in the three regional communities. The project also created employment opportunities for an artist to document and photograph the project and an evaluator.
  • Professional capacity: All artists spoke to an increase or extension in their knowledge and skills across areas including the use of another medium, management of projects, effective tutoring, or the challenges involved in collaborating with other artists.
  • Future work opportunities: The project led to new work opportunities for artists including: 
    • an exhibition of works by artists involved in the Healthy Planet installation at The Coalface Gallery in Moranbah from 11 January to 23 February 2022
    • Migrating Home, an exhibition of birds and foliage produced in the Isaac workshops at the Coalface Gallery from 30 May to 1 June 2022
    • three artists mentored during the project are now earning income from teaching and running their own workshops
    • two artists involved in the project have had work opportunities in neighbouring regions.

Activate Queensland’s places and spaces

  • Place activation: Workshops and final installation at Canelands Mackay activated places and spaces around Mackay, Airlie Beach, Bowen, Moranbah, Dysart, Glenden, Clermont and Flaggy Rock. There was significant anecdotal evidence pointing towards increased commercial activity in the shopping centre due to the workshops, particularly at dining establishments.

Foliage and birds were borrowed by a local Day-care centre as decorations for Book Week.

Drive social change and strengthen communities

  • Social connection: The workshops fostered a sense of belonging and connection among the participants. For example, new residents to the community were able to connect with others and older women who recently lost their husbands found friendship, now meeting weekly for lunch and bird making.
  • Environmental awareness: Over 50kg of recyclable material was donated by the community. The project created dialogue about local environmental challenges and raised awareness of the fashion industry’s impact on landfill. Uncollected birds were sold with proceeds ($1500) being donated to Wildlife Care Mackay Inc.


Plastic Boutique Documentation for Outcome from Donna Maree Robinson on Vimeo.


Great way to get my kids thinking about recycling and waste

Loved that it included the kids

Loved being part of a community installation

For people who are socially isolated it was a great opportunity to talk around a shared task, and at own pace and not intimidating or intrusive.


Learnings and reflections

Margaret reflected on the impact the project had on local artists:

To be able to engage a team of local artists and pay them appropriately was an absolutely godsend as we were all struggling from the effects of Covid on our Artist Collective down turn in retail sales. 

This project gave these local artists not only an income but the opportunity to develop new skills, in sculpture and fibre arts, community workshops, managing stock (consumables), collaborating together and creative problem solving as issues arose with the development of designs, working to engineering limitations, gaining understanding of the importance of keeping records for evaluation, mentoring and being mentored, working as a team and understanding and learning leadership. 

The end result in delivering this massive, impressive project on time, and honouring all of our funders, partners, supporters and participants gave us all an overwhelming sense of achievement and pride.


Group of children and adults at the beach


Tips for others

To do projects like this you have to be highly organised yet remain very flexible to achieve the end goal. 


What next

Plastic Boutique are in discussion about another installment of the Plastic Boutique Project in 2023.


Find out more

Plastic Boutique Facebook page 


An image of the hand-made birds