When people ask me what I do, I say I have the best job in the world.
I travel through beautiful valleys and across rolling hills to small rural schools where I am welcomed with smiles and enthusiasm by both students and teachers alike. As I unload my van full of art materials and activities, the students bombard me with excited questions about what we are doing in art today, and tell me of their recent art discoveries;
‘My grandmother has the Mona Lisa in her hall way’;
” I did my best drawing ever of my dog’;
‘I brought in my sketch book to show you’.
Such is the start of the day as a travelling art teacher, or MACC teacher.
The picturesque valleys of the Ovens, King and Kiewa Rivers are dotted with many small rural schools which provide a unique educational environment in these predominately agricultural communities. These schools are in some of Victoria’s most beautiful locations, but the populations are small and these schools have limited budgets, resources – and teachers.
In the late 1970s, in recognition of the need to support these rural schools and to provide an educational environment similar to those schools in the bigger towns and cities, the MACC and MARC programs were launched. The Mobile Art and Craft Centers (MACC) are a fleet of mobile art classrooms which provide specialist art education to small rural and remote primary schools. They are the lesser known cousin of the MARC (Mobile Area Resource Centre) vans which provide library resources to students in similar environments.
Although there are over 30 library vans, Victoria has only eight Art Vans, three of which are in North East Victoria
Despite the distances and varying timetables, the MACC Art teachers from the Ovens, King and Kiewa Valleys have been meeting regularly to plan units, develop curriculum, put together student exhibitions and share resources. They combine their collective knowledge to ensure the schools they service and the children they teach are receiving an outstanding art education.
A recent collaboration resulted in a highly successful Indigenous unit, culminating in an exhibition of student artwork and the creation of a Mulyan’s Nest (Pangerang word for Eagle) in the Wangaratta Art Gallery.
The exhibition ‘Drawing Together’ showcased artwork from over 20 small schools and the Mulyan’s Nest, constructed with the assistance of local Indigenous elders contained hundreds of sticks collected and decorated by the students. The exhibition and nest building event coincided with Reconciliation Week and a ‘sea of hands’ was also created with the assistance of the Department of Education’s local Koorie Engagement and Support Officers. This event and subsequent exhibition showcased the student’s artwork and attracted many parents and grandparents and friends into the Wangaratta Art Gallery.
The MACC van visits around 10 rural schools over a two week period, spending a day in each school. The specialists who run these vans are a valued member of the school communities and provide another friendly, caring face where there may be a very small staff. The MACC vans have a proud history and their involvement in the development of strong rural art communities can partially be attributed to the wonderful contribution they make to the visual arts culture of rural towns. Many art van teachers have coordinated Artist in Schools Programs, contributed student artwork to exhibitions and festivals, and staged exhibitions which showcase the wonderful creativity and talent of students from rural and remote schools.
These vans ensure that students in rural schools get the same opportunities as their cousins in bigger schools. They too can begin their high school years with a solid grounding in the visual arts. They understand the importance of art in our lives, and its place in the world.
I travel long distances, in all kinds of conditions, and teach in schools which often don’t have an Art room. I frequently return to my base school long after the other teachers have left, and at the end of the week I am exhausted, but I wouldn’t change my job for the world! I am fortunate to be a valued member of these small communities and I am spoilt by grateful students who look forward to their hour and a half of Art every two weeks.
Whorouly Art Van Teacher
Based at Whorouly Primary School
EDITOR’S NOTE: The MACC Vans were first initiated by the Country Education Project back in the 1970s to support rural and small communities, especially rural/small rural schools, to gain access to high quality Art curriculum within their schools. The ongoing provision of such a mobile resources is invaluable to rural and small communities.