FIVE Community Art Project

I woke up on Saturday, October 26 intending to go to the Courthouse Gallery in Busselton to buy a hand-turned pen for my daughter’s birthday. After accomplishing that mission, my husband and I stumbled upon the opening stages of the FIVE Project at ArtGeo Gallery across the street.

It’s website says that FIVE is a two-year pilot project designed to engage five different communities in WA on topics surrounding mental health and well-being. The theme of Busselton’s segment is “home” and what it means to people participating. Husband and wife artists Hiromi Tango and Craig Walsh are in residence with the project in Busselton and have been working with individual artists, students, and community members.

Hiromi’s portion uses suitcases as a framework for exploring the home theme. When we arrived at the gallery, donated suitcases were stacked in the main exhibition room. Hiromi greeted us, explained the concept, and invited us to select a suitcase (or suitcases, if my husband wanted to take part).

For his part, Craig has been collecting video interviews with people from town and beyond (such as myself). He guided me with questions about what it means to belong, the importance of place, memory, and values. He’ll distill everyone’s responses and edit them together into a video which will be projected on the exterior of the Courthouse at the exhibition opening later this month. The exhibition will also feature the completed suitcases, assembled into a large sculpture by Hiromi.

After the video interview with Craig I milled about among the various suitcases until I gravitated to one in particular. It looked less like luggage and more like a game case of some sort, with green felt lining and a couple of broken straps that had once held game pieces in place. It reminded me of the backgammon set I once had.

I took the case home and over the next week or so thought about how to use it to interpret the home theme. The notion is particularly resonant with me. We moved to Australia from the U.S. just over two years ago and honestly, I’m still not quite feeling the fit. The project gave me an opportunity to use many of the things I’ve been collecting: Images (obviously); journal entries about moving, fitting in, and purpose; writings by others about a sense of place.

Ultimately, the case reminded me of a hinged double picture frame, so that’s how I used it. I filled and covered each half with the best things about my former home in Maine and my current home in Western Australia. Frames, boxes, and finding the familiar in a new place are all threads in the piece. There’s a little bit of writing, a lot of photography, and a dash of construction. 

Serendipity struck at the right moment and I’m so glad I stumbled into the FIVE project. I enjoyed the process (except for a hot-glue burn) and I’m grateful for the impetus to represent some of the thoughts that have been rattling around in my head. Busselton’s exhibition opens November 22 and you can read more about the project and the other participating communities at

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