Hannah Toohey - Arterie’s April Artist-in-Residence | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse
 In Inspiring Stories, Volunteer Stories

When Hannah Toohey, our April Arterie artist-in-residence, first set up in the Lifehouse foyer she thought she’d have a quiet month working on her project. But after a few hours she realised that’s not how the month was going to turn out.

“I’ve always judged how successful a day has been by how much work I have produced, but now I’ve re-evaluated what success is,” Hannah said.

“Working in the foyer, people sit down and talk, and after a while you form a relationship. You may not get a lot of work done each day but you certainly learn some pretty incredible things about people’s lives.”

Hannah is an object- and installation-based artist and likes to use materials and techniques, such as embroidery, that aren’t usually found in fine arts. Her project involved embroidering people’s profiles – patients, doctors, families, carers – onto a transparent background to create a wall hanging. She met all kinds of people passing through the Lifehouse foyer.

“When you’re embroidering it harks back to Jane Austen days. People sit and talk when you embroider. They feel like they can really open up,” Hannah said.

“There’s a huge sense of community here that I wasn’t expecting. It’s a largely anonymous community, but everyone’s bound together by this place, especially by the shared qualities that dominate Lifehouse: courage, perseverance, understanding. It’s overwhelming how connected everyone is.

“Being here has reminded me of the responsibility to make art for everybody, to make it a transcendent experience everyone can share in.

“It’s been fantastic. I’m tired but I’m better for having done it.”

Hannah’s residency was sponsored by Pamela Souvlis and Howard Parry-Husbands from pollinate (pictured with Hannah).

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