Arts Events Leisure | People and Places
27/03/2021
Community-minded artist makes waves in Balnarring
by Mornington Peninsula Magazine

To say Mandy Nelson is committed to community is an understatement. Living in Balnarring for about 20 years, this Mornington Peninsula creative who loves where she lives also loves putting back into the community through artistic endeavours.

Born in Melbourne and having lived in Adelaide, Sydney and New Zealand, this mother of three girls and partner of Peninsula musician Marty Williams understands what it is to live each day with artistic vision. Coming from a home where expression was encouraged – her father was a sculptor – this Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Diploma of Visual Arts and Graduate Certificate in Public Art artist has dipped her toes into the worlds of advertising, computer animation, digital art, drawing, film production, mosaics, painting, pottery and printmaking – and that’s just for starters. There’s costuming and installation investigation as well, but ‘getting crafty’ with kids is one of the things she most enjoys.

Mandy explains: “I’ve been the facilitator of Hot Arts for Cool Kids at Frankston Arts Centre for a while now. The program runs over the school holidays and it’s been great because you get to see just how creative the kids are. We’ve made costumes with huge headpieces constructed from cardboard and recycled materials that would have otherwise gone into landfill. It gives the kids a lot of freedom, and using post-industrial waste allows you to play with a different aesthetic while recycling. I have also run craft-making afternoons through the school community. I love working collaboratively with children.”

Mandy continues: “I really began a creative life to balance out my work life. I moved to the Peninsula in the late ‘90s and connected with a creative community of like-minded people who were doing interesting things. I particularly love using salvaged materials; just wandering along the beach looking at the shapes and colours in the seaweed and the flora and fauna connected to the region encourages a different way of thinking. It gives me the means to explore the visual arts in a deeper way. I might even use sticks and leaves from the garden. I use material as a meditative process to uncover themes along the way. The work always emerges from the materials I’m using or a feeling I get and want to investigate. My installation Tracery, where I wove strips of red material I sourced from opportunity shops into nets, is a good example.”

Having exhibited her work in FAC’s Cube 37 gallery, at Oak Hill Gallery and having a stint as Point Nepean artist-in-residence, Mandy is keen to explore other community-driven avenues to showcase her own work and the work of others. She’s part of a team who have just opened a pop-up creative space in Balnarring Village, where non-commercial artistic activities are encouraged. She concludes: “I’ve recently gone back to school to study illustration too.”

Where there’s a will to create, there’s always a way. Just ask Mandy.

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