St Patrick's College is hoping a new artist-in-residence program will help engage its students and tell its story in a fresh way.
Robert Lee Davis assembles what he calls life landscapes, a mixed-media collage featuring stark paintings and collections of found items and cutouts that take the viewer on a journey.
He said he feels his career has led to this moment, after working overseas for years and completing similar projects in other Melbourne schools.
"The history of Ballarat as a city, combined with the history of the school, it's just been the most fascinating journey in my art career," he said.
"Really, when people open up their lives and their hearts and then you have the opportunity to illustrate and create that story in your own unique artform, I couldn't ask for anything else."
The program is a new direction for the annual Flanagan Art Prize, an acquisitive competition the college has run for the past 10 years.
Instead, this year it has been reimagined as an artist-in-residence program, where an artist will work at the school for four weeks - there's still the same prize money, but students will be able to learn from them, and at the end an artwork will be created for the school.
"I've gotten a lot of out of it thus far, in fact understanding the history that leads to the healing, and hoping my work will help in that process of bringing together and showing where they've been, what they've done, their achievements," Mr Davis said.
"They still have a ways to go, but being open to critique, to criticism and introspection, that's amazing - I'm hoping I create a work that celebrates all that."
His approach involves looking for the stories and memories of scraps left behind.
"It's my take on how I see this place, the intimate nuances and corners that I love to add to the work to create a full story of the place," he explained.
"It's a lot of work, but I feel, and most people I've done it for, institutions and families and companies, they get a lot of out of it.
"They don't understand it, they say 'why do you want this piece of leftover scrap?', and I said, because that leftover scrap has a history, and that history adds to the story.
"It's worth it in the end."
College spokesperson Paul Nolan said Mr Lee had been an "engaging personality" for students and staff across the past four weeks.
"It's great for them to see you can make a career in visual art," he said.
"He's been in constant communication with them in their art classes, as well as with our staff."
He said it was important to tell the school's story, including its dark past of sexual abuse.
"We have to acknowledge our history, in all its greatness and in all its times of dismay, it's part of the fabric of who we are, and the first step towards healing is acknowledgement, acceptance, and apology," he said.
"We've been very open about that for the past five years, and having an artist come in to explore that, I think he's found what we've done is overwhelmingly positive now.
"If he can incorporate that into his artwork, we're all going to be better for it."
- Affected by this story? You can phone CASA, Sebastopol on 5320 3933, or free-call the crisis care line 24 hours on 1800 806 292. Or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.
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