In February 2011, artist, printmaker and arts worker Sean Smith founded The Ownership Project. Following extensive experience in remote Indigenous arts centres, Sean identified the need for a similar arts studio providing high quality training to refugee, newly arrived migrant, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities based in inner Melbourne. Having witnessed first-hand the positive personal, social and economic impact that art-making can have on isolated individuals and communities, Sean established The Ownership Project (TOP).
Modelled loosely on the remote Indigenous arts centre, TOP strives to create access and opportunities for refugees, newly arrived migrant, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members to realise their artistic vision. In providing a platform for their varied artistic outcomes, TOP ensures that untold stories, aesthetic and cultural diversity, and distinct perspectives on life in Melbourne are represented in a refined arts context.
The Ownership Project was set up to assist in addressing underrepresentation of culturally diverse aesthetics, and to create empowerment through learning new skills and taking ownership of one’s own representation. Simultaneously, TOP aims to build bridges between communities by increasing exposure in the mainstream arts sector to underrepresented perspectives, all the while on terms set by participant artists. This empowering process has created the TOP community, made up of artists, arts workers, and supporting general public.
Photo: Entrance mural by artist Julius Bright Sackey (2012).