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Inspired AIR: artists' mentorship and residency projects

Art from the Margins’ Inspired AIR program provided professional development for artists living with adversity 


Art from the Margins (AFTM) is a creative initiative of Wesley Mission Queensland that supports, exhibits and promotes the work of artists living with adversity, mental health issues, physical or intellectual disabilities, or experiencing homelessness and social isolation.

In 2018-2019, AFTM hosted Inspired AIR, a series of three artists’ residencies to support professional development for AFTM artists. In each residency, AFTM artists worked with professional artists through creative collaboration, mentorships, public programming events and mini exhibitions.

Collaborating artists and organisations included VERGE Collective, artist Therese Flynn-Clarke and Jugglers Art Space artists Rachel Apelt and Bodhi Gardener.

Work created during the residencies was showcased in three exhibitions:

  • Catching Light: AFTM Foto Group and VERGE Collective (24 November 2018 to 12 January 2019), a curated exhibition of photographic and new media works
  • Woven & Tied: Women’s Work? (2 March to 6 April 2019), showcasing the fibre and textile works produced during a residency with Therese Flynn-Clarke and AFTM Outsider Artists
  • Habitat: 2019 AFTM Emerging Artists and Mentors Exhibition (25 May to 6 July 2019), a showcase of artworks produced with Jugglers Art Space artists Rachel Apelt and Bodhi Gardener, and 2018 AFTM Emerging Artist Award recipients.

Community engagement was supported throughout residencies with opportunities for the public to attend and participate in arts workshops, drop-in fibre art activities and exhibitions.


When and where

July 2018 to July 2019, Brisbane


Key stats

  • 3 exhibitions
  • 25 AFTM artists
  • 19 paid Queensland artists
  • 25 volunteers
  • 2037 visitors to the three exhibitions


Arts Queensland investment

$48,080 through Queensland Arts Showcase Program (QASP) – Arts Ignite

QASP provides funding to support the delivery of vibrant and accessible arts and cultural experiences for Queensland. The Arts Ignite stream supports new and emerging talent, and extends artists and/or organisations’ practice, audiences and markets.




  • AFTM artists were able to develop their artistic skills and gain experience in curating and exhibition practices.
  • Residencies have resulted in private commissions for several AFTM artists, as well as potential mural projects with other Wesley Mission Queensland units and services. 
  • AFTM artists have been encouraged to seek opportunities to exhibit and participate in other creative development opportunities, with one Woven & Tied artist running his own NAIDOC workshop series at AFTM with Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists.
  • Professional artists appointed as mentors across the residencies stated the mentorship had been an invaluable experience for their respective practices.
  • Work from the residencies has contributed to the activation of the AFTM Gallery space, including three multimedia works created for the Catching Light opening event and an external wall mural completed during the jugglers’ residency.

Learnings and reflections

The three residencies were developed on [an] intensive model. This approach was considered the best method for ensuring AFTM artists would participate and be engaged enough to see the mentorship through to completion.

For some participants, this short and rapid development period was productive but others, including the mentors, found the short timeframe stressful with extremely tight deadlines and insufficient time to incorporate offsite excursions.

While each residency was successful, the level of engagement, art work development, advocacy and promotion of the Inspired AIR mentoring project would benefit from a longer project timeline, with each residency scheduled over at least a six-month timeframe from artist consultation, creative development workshops and curating through to exhibition, art activations, events and public programs.


Feedback on the program

As soon as I read about these workshops I knew I could afford to attend. It is really nice to have had access to the materials funded by a grant. Most often affordability of materials and lessons has been my biggest hurdle. Fibre and textile workshop participant

The night workshop, mentoring and feedback on work in a constructive, kind manner, and then seeing everything come together with the exhibition, that it was accessible financially … [This has] given me new ideas, skills [and] stimulated creative thought. Catching Light participant

Tips for others

Ensure that mentoring artists understand the organisation and client base they are working with and have appropriate skill sets to work with emerging artists.

Provide soft introductions of mentors, perhaps inviting them to observe or participate in workshops with outsider artist groups, to develop a rapport and relationship with the artists before the formal mentorship commences. This way they have some understanding of the group needs and expectations.

Set goals and measures collectively with mentor and group participants, so they are realistic and achievable. The amount of new work generated, visitor numbers or art works sales aren’t necessarily the best measures of success.

Facilitate regular communication between mentors and mentorees, as well as opportunities to reflect and debrief.


What next

AFTM has been approached by a corporate partner to deliver a mural project with 2019 AFTM emerging artists. The AFTM Foto Group is collectively working toward an external exhibition project with an inner Brisbane City gallery. There have been discussions with the University of Queensland Business School about the potential to expand research and evaluation of AFTM projects and programs over longer timeframes.

Further information

Art from the Margins
Talks with the artists


Banner image: Woven and Tied: Women's Work? workshop art works

Images courtesy of Art from the Margins and photographers Peter McGhie, Krystal Sempf and John Pryke.