29 May, 2015
Artist Marnie Woods with her work at Splash Art Studio. Pictures: Angie Basdekis
The looming closure of a 20-year-old free art studio catering for people with mental illness is being called a “tragedy.”
Neami Splash Art Studio will close its doors next month after the Napthine Government withdrew its $600,000 annual funding last year, in a shift from group programs to individual support packages.
The studio is operated by community mental health service Neami National.
It provides support from arts workers to those with mental illnesses, offering the chance to paint, mosaic, draw, exhibit and sell work.
Artist Marnie Woods, 28, said starting at Splash as a 16-year-old school leaver was life-changing.
“I couldn’t go to school anymore due to a range of issues, mostly anxiety-related,” she said.
“I needed a place to be comfortable and do something that I loved.
Ms Woods said 12 years of support and guidance at the Raglan St studio had improved her mental health.
“Even in the midst of depression that basically narrowed down to my art ... Splash was sort of a beacon for me.”
“I’m in a place where I wouldn’t have been otherwise if not for Splash.”
“It’s a place where you don’t have to be constantly thinking all of the time, so it sort of wipes out all of the other distractions and problems.”
“I know that coming here has really helped not just as an outlet, but also to help me to grow and use my art to do something that I never thought I would achieve with my art, so I’m very grateful to Splash,” Ms Woods said.
Neami National Victorian manager Glen Tobias said the studio had been run for the past year without funding, in the hope it would find another way to stay open.
Now it will close at the end of June.
“We delayed closing it immediately, in order to give us some time to look around for other options,” he said.
“It’s a tragedy for us. It’s been a long time that we’ve been operating Splash and it’s had some really valuable outcomes for consumers.”
About 60 people have used the centre each year, with a recent waiting list stretching to 100 hopefuls.
For Ms Woods the closure is bittersweet, as others won’t be able to access a service she credits with improving her mental health.
“There’s nothing like Splash,” Ms Woods said.
Meanwhile, Splash Art Studio will host Ripple, its final exhibition, from June 10-19. You can see it at 268 Raglan St, Preston. Click here for more details.
Originally published in the Preston Leader.