Come Fly With Me!

‘Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away’ – Michael Buble

I am about to start my next adventure!

It really is about to happen in ‎2 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 36 seconds…35 secs… 34s… 33… Well, I guess you get the idea. Very soon Rob and I will fly to Munich where I have found a ‘prettily furnished 2 room apartment in München-Schwabing’ about 3 kms north of Munich Centre.

I’ve seen the pics on the internet and we’ve paid online. Is it pretty? How big are those rooms? Will it fit visitors? Who is dropping in during my time away?All this… and more will be revealed soon! In fact, after our 22 hour journey, we land at 5:30am and have arranged to meet our land lord at 9:30am. Gee, I hope it really exists!!!

Yes, this time next week I will begin to dine daily on dumplings and Weinzenbier followed by sausages and sauerkraut. The slim trim unfit vision you’ve known from past years will, over the next three months, become the frivously, fat and frumpy Fräulein Fiona!

 I’m looking forward to walking up Leopoldstraβe and past the Englischer Garten to Marianplatz and watching the Glockenspiel. I can’t wait to see this beautiful old carillon again. On our first day in town, I intend to stand shoulder to shoulder with every other tourist crowded into the square at noon to hear the Glockenspiel chime and watch the 32 life-sized figures reenact historical Bavarian events.  Yes, I’m a dag at heart and I know I’m going to fit into Munchen just fine!

Am I scared? I have been asked this often lately.

No…I wasn’t! I do feel a little sympathy for the Munich locals…but I’m sure they’ll get used to me eventually.

I am excited!   Prost!

So please join me as I:

  • learn a new language and converse badly with the locals
  • get lost in the Pinakothek der Moderne, The Alte Pinakothek and the The Neue Pinakothek
  • try and buy new tastes from the bustling Viktualienmark
  • rock and roll to an oompah beat at the Hofbräuhaus
  • party in September till the last drop of Oktoberfest
  • cruise along the castle road
  • proudly watch Modern Error perform at the Taubertal Festival at Rothenburg ob der Tauber on the “Sounds-For-Nature” stage as Australian winners for the Emergenza Newcomer Contest


The Heart of Operation Art: Lilia’s Story

I hope you enjoy Lilia’s Story. This is the speech from my last formal function to officially open Operation Art at Maitland Regional Art Gallery:

Sometimes in life we just get lucky, well I really landed on my feet the day I started this job. I’ve received the utmost pleasure from being the Coordinator of Operation Art and managing this unique program. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people.

Operation Art was initiated by the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and is run by the NSW Department of Education.
Every year we ask schools across NSW to submit up to four artworks each. These artworks are created by students for children in hospital and from all of those we select fifty to become part of the permanent collection at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. Because they are so great they are shown firstly at the Art Gallery of NSW and then tour throughout the following year to several regional galleries before returning to hang on the walls at the hospital.
I could give you more facts like that about the program but I would rather tell you a story that shows you its heart.

Lilia’s Story:
I first met Lilia in 2006 when her artwork was hanging in the Operation Art main exhibition.

Teddies Ready For Bed
Ready For Bed

Lilia was 8 years old and her chalk pastel drawing of teddies ‘Ready for Bed’ artwork was hanging proudly alongside 601 others, it had been selected in the top fifty and had also been chosen as the junior winner for that year.
The next time I met Lilia, was the following year at the same annual exhibition opening. Once again her artwork had been selected to represent her school and once again it had been selected in the top fifty.

She bowled up to me excitedly and said “Mrs Steel, I have to tell you something. Last year when my art was hanging at the Art Gallery of NSW I met a lovely lady artist… her name was Margaret… and she invited me back to draw.” I looked for some kind of explanation from her Dad who was standing proudly next to his clever daughter. Yes, Lilia had indeed met Margaret Olley at the opening and subsequently, arrangements had been made for a short visit.

Lilia & There's Bugs at the Bottom of My Garden
Lilia & There's Bugs at the Bottom of My Garden

This little girl had been invited into Margaret’s wonderful world of art one afternoon and they’d spent time talking and drawing together. Lilia had been inspired and had gone on to create her artwork that was hanging in the 2007 exhibition. I looked at her latest entry and noticed that it was a very busy still life, a work full of flowers. The inspirational Margaret Olley was all over it!

“Wow Lilia! You must be so proud of what you have done,” I said. “Do you realise that you’ve had your artworks selected twice by your school now to be hung professionally here in this gallery with all these other ones? And by the time they get back to hang on the walls in the hospital, you will have exhibited twice at the Art Gallery of NSW (I haven’t); you have drawn with one of Australia’s most loved and well-known artists (I haven’t); your artworks will have toured to at least ten regional galleries across NSW over two years (mine haven’t) and they’ve probably been seen by about 100,000 people in that time… and you are only eight years old!”
“Yes,” she said quietly, “but the best thing Mrs Steel,” and her face lit up now, “is that now I’ll have two artworks hanging at the hospital.”
What I didn’t know about Lilia until then and her Mum had to explain to me was, that before Lilia went to school, she had spent quite some time in the Children’s Hospital at Westmead as one of their young patients. And as a family they had spent, what seemed at the time, like endless hours with Lilia in the hospital. She had spent nervous nights away from home and they had all waited together for tests to be done or results to come back, hours that turned into days of anxiously waiting, waiting and more waiting.

The only sanctuary they found during that difficult time was in walking the halls. This hospital is a registered art gallery and Lilia loved looking at the artworks hanging on the walls. They invited her into their world of colour and imagination and transported her away to a calmer place without cares. Her Mum and Dad and brother would take turns to walk mile upon mile around the halls with Lilia and they’d all be whisked away into her other world. Lilia had found the value of visual arts at the age of only four years old. She understood the real and very practical value that an artwork can have on its viewer.

When the Children’s Hospital at Westmead was opened, its then CEO, Dr John Yu wanted it to be a total healing environment where design, decoration, gardens and art combine with the best possible medical care to comfort and heal the young patients and so he asked Joanna Capon to be the curator of this amazing gallery. Joanna collected artworks from some of Australia’s leading and well- known artists like Arthur Boyd, Michael Johnson and Ben Quilty… but the artworks that are the most loved and appreciated by the young patients are the Operation Art works. They help families transcend tough times and help to bring a smile to the faces of the dedicated staff. These are the ones that the children can relate to, they tell their stories in their own way and remind them of happier times and places.

So when you look at these artworks exhibited here today at Maitland Regional Art Gallery, enjoy your sneak peek before they return and are hung forever in the hospital. Remember why they were done and who they have been created for, think about who will look into them in the future.
Think of Lilia… and let yourself be drawn into the world she found when she was only four years old!

Growing Old is Mandatory…but Growing Up is Optional

Everybody wants to live forever, but nobody wants to grow old. Jonathan Swift
Recently, I noticed that I was older than some other people around me. What finally caused this awakening? Was it really that sudden or had I just been in denial until last Tuesday?

When I pondered this revelation more closely, I decided that there had been hints along the way that I had chosen to ignore:

Ignored Hint #1:  Sports stars were younger than me.

In fact, the entire local cricket team are now younger than me and I’m not even game to check the ages of anyone on the lawn bowls team!

But why would this have concerned me when I was 28? I was never planning a career in sport and yet somehow this seemed like I had run out of time and missed an opportunity… for what you ask? Obvious isn’t it… to have the option of representing Australia at the Olympics!

Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself. Tom Wilson

Ignored Hint #2: I didn’t go on dates anymore… my children did!

This stage of my life was not short and yet my inner genius still didn’t catch on… or was this just the beginning of ‘the denial’?

Everything was written on the calendar as ‘a date’ and it required the tactical manoeuvring skills of an army general during Desert Storm: play dates, party dates, sleep over dates, little athletics, soccer, netball, cricket, rugby and basketball dates, violin, keyboard and dance lesson dates, science weekend dates, hiking, camping, caving and bird watching dates, bike and horse riding dates, turning up and smiling at school assembly dates, rainy swimming carnival dates, hot sweaty athletic carnival dates… and finally (aarggh… my all time favourite) end of year presentation/speech day dates!

I’m back… and you knew I was coming. On my way here I passed a cinema with the sign ‘The Mummy Returns’. Margaret Thatcher

Ignored Hint # 3: Mid Life Crisis!

Seriously people… after reading IH#2, are you in the least bit surprised I had to ‘find myself’???

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. Sophia Loren

Ignored Hint #4: I don’t get Rap Music.

My parents didn’t enjoy my music when I was younger and so I decided I’d be aware of my children’s music tastes and enjoy it alongside them. The boys and I have rocked out at a Red Hot Chillies concert; Rob and I enjoyed Pearl Jam on the rocks; I was happily rocked to sleep by Midnight Oil at an end of week concert; Prue and I rock, bopped and bonded over Bette and Beyonce, and finally… we are all now excitedly looking forward together to that holiest of Steel grails…a rock hard Metallica concert!

But… I just can’t stand Rap! “I’ve tried but I just don’t get it! It’s not musical. It just sounds all the same.” As soon as these words came out of my mouth, I remembered my Mum saying exactly the same to me when I was 15. I was rocked… when did I turn into my mother???

The first sign of maturity is the discovery that the volume knob also turns to the left. – Jerry M. Wright

Ignored Hint #5: The UK had a female Prime Minister 30 years ago but Australia only obtained one by default in 2010.

White women in Australia were among the first in the world to get the right to vote and yet no matter how much Germaine insisted we burn our bras, it seems that someone doused the fire and strapped on a straightjacket. I am surprised at the issues that are still being debated that I thought would be common place by now:

  • When will there be equal pay for women?
  • Thanks for saying ‘Sorry’ Kevin but have land rights been achieved for aboriginals?
  • Like the US, will we have to wait for the colour of our Prime Minister’s skin to be a contrived storyline in TV dramas before we get the real thing?
  • Why does the world still have land mines?
  • Why is sexuality still considered legal criteria for anything… is race? address?? cereal preference???  
  • Why do we still hear the term ‘asylum seeker’ and discuss a solution?

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.  Henry Ford

Why did I have an awakening?

It’s time for the next option… to grow up!

I don’t really mind getting old if I’ve learned and followed it with action. Therefore my active response is to encourage each other and to encourage our children to finish what we started. Let’s not just talk about it anymore, let’s create change!