Giving Portland’s artists a lift

Edna Male on the stair-lift

For Edna Male and Pat Webb, the installation of a stair-lift in a creative community space has made a huge difference to their lives.

Both women have a passion for painting, but that passion was being frustrated by an upstairs artist studio at the Julia Street Creative Space in Portland.

an eldery lady using a chair lift going up a flight of stairsThe art complex is a community-based not-for-profit organisation where members come together to produce fine art, pottery, jewellery, and wood turning, among other arts and crafts.

Members were concerned that some participants like Edna and Pat were finding it difficult to access the upstairs art studio as their mobility declined, and that inaccessibility may be a deterrent for new members looking to join the group. So, they looked for a solution.

They found it in the Victorian Government’s Living Local Fund, which supported the installation of a stair-lift chair to provide access to the studio, along with the purchase of more accessible chairs, hand dryers, and outdoor umbrellas to provide protection from the sun when working outside.

Edna has been a member of the group for years. Every week she comes in from the family beef cattle farm, often carrying a basket of produce from the farm’s orchard and garden.

But it was becoming increasingly difficult for 85 year Edna to climb the stairs, so the members initially installed a bell at the bottom of the stairs which she would ring when she arrived so they could help her up.

An eldery lady painting

But now with the new stair-lift chair access is a breeze, and Edna is loving doing what she does best.

'It’s great,' she says about the lift. 'It keeps us painting.'

And she loves the social aspect as well.

'I’m only self-taught, but it’s been great being part of the group – they’re a great lot of people.'

For 90 year old Pat Webb, the timing was perfect.

Two of her children already lived in Portland, but she recently moved to town along with her other 2 children, and is now surrounded by a family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Shortly after her arrival, the lift was installed at Julia Street Creative Space and Pat jumped at the opportunity to join.

A painting of a horse

'I use a walker, so it’s meant everything for me,' she said.

Pat has loved painting all her life, and has some advice for people thinking of slowing down as they get older.

'Keep doing what you can as much as you can,' she said.

And her passion has obviously rubbed off on 2 of her children, Vicki and Chris, as they accompany her to class each week to create their own works of art.

Since 2020 the Living Local Fund has supported more than 400 projects in regional and suburban Victoria.

Local councils and community organisations receive grants of up to $200,000 for infrastructure projects, while smaller investments of up to $20,000 are awarded for upgrades to community facilities.

For more information, visit the Living Local website.