Ann recounts she was not sure what to expect when she first heard of Brisbane Common Ground. After an initial tour of the building in July 2012, she was pleasantly surprised to discover that amongst other amenities, it had a fully operational art room. Her interest grew when she was told that there were plans to run pottery classes in the building. Ann explains that she saw an opportunity to rekindle a former passion that was first ignited when she volunteered at the Blind Foundation fifteen years earlier in their pottery program.
After moving in, Ann met with Brisbane Common Ground Artist in Residence, John Fitz-Walter to discuss the possibility of getting involved in ceramics projects. Ann remembers John was more than keen to explore this avenue, but had his hands full at the time helping to bring the 13 story canvas ‘From the Ground Up’ to life. In Ann’s words, John ‘conned’ her into getting involved in the project and 18 months on, the adventure continues. Ann laughs cheekily when she adds that at least every fortnight she would slip the words, “pottery, pottery…” into her conservations with John.
Ann now proudly shares that she has just completed the Ceramics component of the Certificate III in Visual Arts at Queensland TAFE Brisbane Southbank Campus and is one of the key artists and tenant co-facilitators engaged in creating the Cross-link Mosaic Sculpture which will grace Brisbane Common Ground’s public thoroughfare that links Hope Street and Fleet Lane.
Ann explains that she is excited to see her dreams start to become realised, but also admits it didn’t come without some challenges. When recalling her first day at TAFE, Ann admits, “I was scared. I’d just turned 55 and when I first went into that room, it was full of 15 to 16 year olds. I felt like the grandmother, but over the days and the weeks, we developed some friendships. I’m now hoping that some of the TAFE students will come to Brisbane Common Ground to help work on the Cross-link Mosaic Sculpture. It will be a good experience for them as well”.
Ann adds that she has also had the opportunity to help out with some tile making sessions at Lotus Place, another locally based community organisation, run by Micah Projects. “The whole community can get involved with our mosaic”, explains Ann, “…and I’m keen to do as much pottery as I can”. “After our mosaic is finished, I’ve also offered to be a volunteer on other community mosaic projects – anything I can get involved with”, Ann continues.
On a more serious note, Ann merits her renewed passion for art (and pottery in particular) to having stability and security in her life again. “How can I say it”, Ann pauses, “Four and half years ago I was working at a major retail outlet in the credit area and was enjoying my job, when I had a stroke and some associated medical issues that required me to be hospitalised for an extended period of time”. Ann continues to explain that eight weeks after having the stroke she was unable to continue to pay her rent and explains her family had to pack up her belongings while she was still in hospital. A long recovery meant Ann was unable to return to work and after leaving hospital she stayed with various family members until she was offered transitional housing. When the transitional house was sold, Ann moved into a boarding house in Fortitude Valley. Ann’s pain at remembering this time is visible on her face. “That’s when I went to the bottom of my lowest low”, says Ann, “It was horrible. The stroke had left me with feelings of anxiety and I felt very scared in that environment”.
Ann continues in a more determined tone when speaking about her move to Brisbane Common Ground, “I feel now that I’m in a community. Having come from the complex in Fortitude Valley, it took me about six months to feel secure enough to even walk to the foyer by myself”. Ann recalls that during these initial months as a tenant, the building staff gave her a lot of support and patience. “I feel confident now”, Ann states. “I never have to worry about someone breaking into my house unless I’ve opened the door for them. If there’s something happening for me, I just call Concierge and they will come and assist”. Ann continues with a smile and a sparkle in her eyes, “We’ve got to be lucky”.