VMP – Volunteer Museums Project

VMP - Volunteer Museums Project

VMP was developed as a specific artist in residency program working with volunteer-run museums in the Clarence Valley with outcomes focused on audience development, engaging with Indigenous artists and introducing new work into museum collections. With funding secured in late 2020 from Create NSW, ANR initiated the project in early 2021. 

The project had its genesis as a partnership with Orana Arts based in Dubbo, who had previously piloted a program with volunteer run museums in their region. ANR saw an opportunity to engage local artists in a similar capacity in the Northern Rivers, and the Clarence Valley was selected as the area of focus. Museums consultant for the region Joan Kelly was contracted to assist the ANR team with project delivery and assist with liaising between the museums, artists and ANR team.

In May 2020 an Expression of Interest was sent out to all volunteer-run museums in the Clarence Valley, to gauge interest and capacity in hosting artists in their museums. Two participating museums were selected; Maclean River Historical Society/Maclean Museum and Port of Yamba Historical Society/Yamba Museum. ANR invited two prominent Yaegl artists to participate in the project; Visual Artist Frances Belle Parker and Sound Designer/Composer Blake Rhodes.

The project delivered a range of outcomes for each participating museum and artist in residency. 


Yamba Residency | Blake Rhodes The Story House 

Inspired by the plaque on the front of the Yamba Museum, Blake was inspired by the notion of museums as Story Houses. Whilst artist in residence at Yamba Museum he recorded spaces in the museum, crafting his sound work ‘Story House’. After recording and remixing his original recordings the final sound works will be installed in the Yaegl Garden for museum audiences to listen to. Blake also created a video of his time at the museum in lieu of performing his highly anticipated ‘Sunset Sound Session’ which was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns. The final sound work was edited into a video work and embedded as a QR code for audiences to scan and listen to whilst visiting the museum.


Listen to StoryHouse by Blake Rhodes


Maclean Residency | Frances Belle Parker Memories of the Fig Tree

Frances began her residency at the Maclean museum by undertaking six regular afternoon sessions at the museum with other community members discussing and researching the Fig Tree as well as other Local Aboriginal history. Through her research at the museum, Frances developed a collection of stories and old photographs of the old Fig Tree which once stood in the Maclean show grounds and was cut down in the 1970s. Adapting the images, text and photographs, Frances created an artwork in the format of a pull up banner that can be installed in the museum. The final community day celebration was a special event bringing local elders and community members together to share stories of the Fig Tree and learn about the project. It was a successful way to bring the community together. Frances also created a soundscape to accompany the presentation of the final artwork and shared her family stories and the cultural significance of the Fig Tree to the Yaegl Community.


Listen to Memories of the Fig Tree Soundscape


Arts Northern Rivers wishes to acknowledge the generous contribution made by volunteers at the Yamba Museum and Maclean Museum who supported this project initiative. We would also like to thank Yaegl artists Frances Belle Parker and Blake Rhodes who made time to realise their artworks and worked with Museum staff to deliver this project. We would also like to thank the project consultant Joan Kelly for supporting museum staff, artists and ANR staff. Lastly, we would like to thank the Yaegl community in Maclean and Yamba for supporting the artists and communities of Maclean and Yamba for attending the museums.

This project is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.