Narelle nominated for NSW Volunteer of the Year

By Olivia Duffey

Art Relief founder Narelle Whitham's (pictured) incredible work has been recognised by community members, who have nominated her for the 2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year Award.

She will travel to Wagga on September 3 for the Riverina Regional sector of the awards. 

Mrs Whitham started the free art-wellness program, Art Relief, last year to ease daily stresses and in turn provide relief for farmers impacted by drought and poor water policy.

Mrs Whitham will soon deliver her 100th workshop, which have become a way for participants to enjoy fun, friendly and non-judgemental art activities in the local area.

All materials are provided by Mrs Whitham, gathered from friends, grants and donations.

Most workshops are administered by Mrs Whitham, who occasionally encouraged other artists to volunteer their time to share their skills.

"I'm humbled to know the Art Relief Program inspired someone to nominate me for this award," Mrs Whitham said.

"Whether or not I win, just being nominated gives me more drive to see more art relief workshops become available for current drought affect communities.

"I am grateful for the recognition because I work hard to keep Art Relief available to everyone in this regional area."

For Mrs Whitham, it is not just about the drought anymore. She said it is also about helping all locals access the creative arts where it is not widely offered.

"Regional and rural communities do not always have the availability to the same resources, opportunities or even support to pursue the creative industry, hobbies and the like," she said.

"That is why art relief is so important because it is an opportunity for people to explore the arts and to learn along the way. It becomes and outlet and a way to express yourself.

"When the drought is over, Art Relief will continue as an art wellness program but until then, it is all about helping people affected by the drought. It is because of this, that I was nominated.

"We will always try to meet the creative needs of the community and we will support your interests along the way, nurturing your skills and growing with you as you create."

Mrs Whitham is holding a special 'how to paint a possum' workshop on Friday, August 23 to celebrate Art Relief's 100th session.

"I think it (reaching 100 workshops) is a huge achievement and is really reflective of how much we have grown within regional communities and the positive effect of these workshops on locals," Mrs Whitham said.

"I am incredibly grateful for the support I have received from fellow artists, Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, South West Arts, Art shed, Moulamein CWA, participants and community members because these are the sort of projects we should be getting behind.

"Everything we receive goes straight back into offering another workshop or extending the reach of workshops to other communities. It all goes back into the community as a service to locals and it is something I am really proud of."

The 100th workshop will be held at South West Arts in End St, Deniliquin from noon to 3pm. All workshops are free to attend.

Contact Art Relief via the Facebook page to find out more.