16 February 2024

From The Art Factory to the mayor's office: Riverina artists find new walls for their work

| Chris Roe
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Raine Mitter, Lilly Salmon, Cr Dallas Tout, Paul Williams and Lorraine O'Hara pose with some of the spectacular works in the Wagga Mayor's office.

Raine Mitter, Lilly Salmon, Cr Dallas Tout, Paul Williams and Lorraine O’Hara pose with some of the spectacular works in the Wagga mayor’s office. Photo: Chris Roe.

There was an excited buzz around Wagga Wagga City Council this week as four Riverina artists were invited by the mayor to see their work on display.

Artists Raine Mitter, Lilly Salmon, Paul Williams and Lorraine O’Hara were all ushered into Councillor Dallas Tout’s office overlooking Wollundry Lagoon where their works hold pride of place on the walls.

The handful of paintings feature a menagerie of animals: dogs, cows, reindeer, sharks and a green frog that hangs in reception casting a cheeky eye across the waiting room.

“It’s Frank,” explained Raine when asked whether the frog had a name.

“OK, Frank it will be from now on, and I’ll tell everyone,” declared Dallas with a grin.

Raine also enjoys painting plants and tigers and has a border collie that is similarly named “Frankie” that she has yet to paint a portrait of.

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The artists are all members of The Art Factory at the Riverina Community College, a supported studio program that nurtures the professional development of artists with disability.

The mayor visited the studios last year and was impressed by the talent.

“It was just an amazing place and there’s a lot of skills there in the community, but there’s not a lot of profile,” he said.

“I thought about that over the last few months and then I approached The Art Factory before Christmas to look at a way that the artists can show their works here. ”

Raine Mitter

Raine Mitter’s painting of “Frank” the frog greets visitors in the office waiting room.

Paul is a Wiradjuri man from Temora and two of his paintings hang side by side.

“It’s a shark,” he says, indicating the bold and bloody abstract that features a toothy fish in green and a slightly terrified man watching from the corner.

“Yeah, that’s me,” he confirmed.

In the second painting, a longhorn bull watches over a paddock and five little cows.

Artist Paul Williams

Artist Paul Williams has two works hanging in the Wagga mayor’s office. Photo: Chris Roe.

Program coordinator Leanne Dyer explained that Paul had been practising as an artist for years and had been involved with the studios in both Temora and Wagga.

“I noticed early on that if you had any sort of barrier to mainstream training and were wanting to experiment with the arts or wanting to pursue a career as an artist, there’s no way to go,” she said.

“Without something like a supported studio, their practice just stops.”

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Leanne has been with The Art Factory since it began in 2016 and explained that it was an environment where each artist could be themselves and have autonomy.

“Part of what we do in the studio is to promote the artists and we’re always looking for possibilities for their work to be seen – not as an artist with a disability, but just as an artist,” she said.

“Art is of course very subjective, but I find this work extremely inspiring and interesting.”

Artist Lorraine O'Hara

Artist Lorraine O’Hara knows how to fill a canvas with colour! Photo: Chris Roe.

Artist Lorraine has been painting for more than a decade and posed proudly with her vibrant reindeer rendered in acrylics and oil sticks.

She said it was Christmas that inspired her choice.

Lilly is more of a dog person and used paint markers to create her portrait of Toki and Bubz. She has also been commissioned to produce several pet portraits.

“I like to draw dogs and sometimes pigs,” she said, explaining that her dad has pigs on a farm in Adelong.

“I love chickens as well and I’ve got baby chickens that hatched.”

Artist Lilly Salmon

Artist Lilly Salmon loves painting pets. Photo: Chris Roe.

The Art Factory was recognised by the Wagga Business Chamber in 2023, winning a Golden Crow in the Outstanding Community Organisation category.

Dallas is enjoying showcasing local artists and said the works had become a great conversation piece.

“Everyone that comes into the office comments on the paintings and I get nothing but positive feedback,” he said.

“It’s amazing work that they do, and that’s just a small sampling.

“We’ll rotate the works every few months over the next year and it’s just really exciting to be able to welcome the artists here to see their work on the wall.”

You can learn more about the artists and see their work on The Art Factory’s homepage.

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