For a long tme onn Friday afternoons during school terms, the Stepping Stones For Life Music and Art Group provided art, craft and music activities in St Margaret’s small hall for people with disabilities.
This Group evolved as a continuation of the Hands On Studio’s Art Class which was established as an offshoot of the original Hands On Studio with the assistance of an ACT government community grant. It commenced, probably in 2001, in St Margaret’s small hall. It was open to all-comers and originally a number of retired folk were its main clientele. Gradually it evolved to include a number of people with a disability.
In 2006, this Art Class was a well-established group working on the completion of a beautiful tree mosaic now occupying pride of place in St Margaret’s large hall. There was already an established group of volunteers who came in to assist the group and provide afternoon tea. Their presence was invaluable as the social aspect of the group was one of its most important functions, not to mention the toothsome afternoon teas brought in by the ladies.
Later an idea developed that the participants would benefit from a music group of some sort. The services of a music therapist were obtained and she provided a wonderful music therapy program suited very much to the group. It was her idea to have a musical and to this end obtained a grant to produce “The Crow and the Pitcher”, based on the Aesop fable, she herself writing the songs but with input from the group and others from the St. Margaret’s and wider community.
Members of the Stepping Stones For Life Story Circle wrote and spoke the text. St. Margaret’s choir learned and sang the songs whilst the group itself contributed with disciplined and innovative percussion. The Art group created the stage set with large papier-mâché representations of the crow and the pitcher and painted backdrops depicting parts of the action.
The pattern was established with the music group that they would meet at midday for forty minutes (later for an hour), have lunch, and then spend the rest of the afternoon with Art. This is how it continued until 2020.
The Art class over the years experimented with many different painting techniques including leaf printing & other printing, dot-painting, spatter, marbling, foot and hand painting, wet surface painting, Jackson-Pollock style painting, collage, tie-dyeing, etc. which allow for many opportunities for abstract expressionism.
On the craft side various weaving projects generally made into attractive purses and bags were popular. The group had quite a long season of paper-making which resulted in some attractive cards. Also paper sample books with photos of each participant on each page tastefully and profusely decorated. Easter and Christmas crafts have been wide and varied. The group has also had a few sessions of bead craft.
Craft using felted balls to make jewellery captured the imagination. Another craft involving soluble Vilene and wool scraps arranged in patterns (and randomly) produced some interesting cushions and bags. Too, an interest in papier-mâché was rekindled with smaller projects than the original crow and pitcher marathons.
The group was commissioned by Stepping Stones For Life management to make another large mosaic as a sign for the front of Ross Walker Lodge. It features an attractive gum-leaf design with the words prominently and clearly stated. It is mounted at the entrance to the Lodge and a photograph of it is used on the letterhead of the Lodge’s Management Committee.
For some years the group entered the Canberra Show Art Section with quite some success, although it is not necessarily all about success. It was a valuable undertaking, providing an impetus and goal and pride in having things on display for the world to see. Likewise a yearly display at the Service of Celebration at St. Margaret’s was something that the group valued and worked towards.
Sadly, the impact of COVID-19 during 2020 forced the suspension of all activities, initially with the hope of resumption but as time went by the organisers concluded that they would be unable to resume with the same hands-on level of close contact and decided to stop altogether.