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Long Bay Gaol art program booms after COVID-19

Long Bay Gaol

Interest in the work of the 'Boom Gate Gallery' has surged after surged after the pandemic. Photo: Supplied.

By SASHA FOOT

A website and social media launch has made a “massive difference” to the public outreach of Long Bay Gaol’s art gallery program, which the NSW government has said helped inmates in Matraville “to cease their offending and to lead productive lives”.

The Boom Gate Gallery, which exhibits art created by inmates at the correctional facility, provides 75 per cent of the artwork’s profit to the artists as a source of income. 

Co-curator Damian Moss told City Hub that launching a website during the pandemic has helped the gallery’s success, with half of the artwork sales coming through their website or Instagram account. 

“We’ve had a lot of inmates who have turned their life around through making art,” he said. “It helps them with their self-esteem, sense of self-worth, and confidence.

“The most positive thing inmates can do is get involved in a creative pursuit while they are inside.”

Indigenous inmates create approximately three-quarters of the art showcased by the gallery. 

“[Indigenous art] is incredibly popular with all our visitors, including our overseas visitors. If they want to buy art they want something unique to Australia.”

Inside the facility, art helps connect Indigenous inmates to their culture. 

“Many of the inmates have expressed the fact that they’ve learnt and connected more with their culture than they were previously in their lives,” Moss says. 

The creation of Indigenous art is often a collaborative process between several inmates who share materials and ideas to help one another when painting. Moss said that he’s seen Indigenous artists instruct “new or inexperienced inmates on how they go about starting the paintings”. 

“They all have lots of hours to fill in and making art is a really positive way to fill those hours.”

Long Bay Gaol

NSW Minister for Corrections Geoff Lee. Photo: NSW Parliament.

Long Bay Gaol art program great way to ‘gain a sense of pride”: NSW Minister for Corrections 

Back in 2019, the gallery’s ‘In Trouble’ exhibition focused on the mental health difficulties that come from incarceration. Inmates wrote testimonies to accompany their works. 

One of the artists, Toorakle, explained his art practice journey. 

“I came across a fellow Aboriginal that helped me reconnect with my Aboriginality…[and] I learnt to paint my Dreamtime,” he writes. 

NSW Minister for Corrections Geoff Lee praised the gallery’s efforts. 

“The Boom Gate Gallery project is a great way for inmates to gain a sense of pride knowing their artwork will be viewed by thousands of people,” he said. 

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