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The Arts can help us recover from disasters – creatively

‘Creative recovery’ arts projects improve mental health and wellbeing, but better planning and resourcing is needed to support artists and communities

You might think that the last thing people would want to do after a disaster is make art.

Yet for over three years following the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, Fabrik Arts + Heritage in the Adelaide Hills have been delivering numerous visual arts, crafts and writing workshops to their fire-affected community.

One of the many projects, New Art New Walls, brought together families to create paintings for their newly rebuilt houses to help them feel like homes.

These workshops not only offered a chance for families to create new memories together, but they also provided opportunities for connection, respite and emotional processing following the devastation of Black Summer.

Fabrik’s approach is supported by evidence that ‘creative recovery’ – arts programs that are initiated in communities following so-called ‘natural disasters’ – can significantly improve the wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Yet despite many and varied examples of creative recovery in practice, there has been little research of what works best, and why. As climate change increases the likelihood of communities being hit by consecutive disasters, we need to better understand, resource and plan for creative recovery to effectively support these communities.


Following the devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, Arts Victoria (now Creative Victoria) and not-for-profit Regional Arts Victoria collaborated to provide Arts Recovery grants to 47 regional Victorian artists and arts organisations in fire-affected communities to produce recovery projects.

The success of these projects has inspired numerous artists and arts organisations to initiate creative recovery projects in the years since. Many of these have been funded by federalstate and local governments – as well as by not-for-profitcommunity organisations and the private sector – following disasters both in Australia and internationally.

The Black Summer bushfires were followed by a variety of creative recovery projects, including a 50-day-long festival with circus, music and sculpture in Central New South Wales, murals, documentaries, publications, and visual arts exhibitions in Southeast Queensland, and photography, poetry, and handicrafts workshops by Fabrik in the Adelaide Hills.

There are also recent examples of projects after major floods, like drawing and storytelling for children and their families in Hobart in 2018, and contemporary dance performances, audio-documentary projects and a collage club in the Northern Rivers in 2022-23.

This article was first published on Pursuit. To continue reading, you can access the full article on their website.

Image: Arbour Festival 2021, Artist: Julie Roche. Picture: Tayla Martin

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