The annual Art4Refugees fundraiser for the Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families (SCARF) opens tonight at Project Contemporary Artspace. Through the sale of donated artworks, Art4Refugees raises much needed funds for refugee resettlement programs in the Illawarra.
Now in its eighth year, the major yearly fundraiser for SCARF has expanded into a month long event across several locations. Between 5th– 16th October the exhibition will be held at Project Contemporary Artspace, and at Wollongong City Gallery between 11th – 30th October.
2016 marks one of the biggest year yet for Art4Refugees, with several acclaimed artists donating works towards the cause. Blake and Wynne Prize winner George Gittoes has donated three works to the exhibition this year, as well as speaking at tonight’s opening event. He’s joined by prominent local artists such as Paul Ryan, India Mark, Moira Kirkwood, Keiran Tapsell and Pamela King.
SCARF executive officer Sherryl Reddy said they were thrilled with the level of support from artists in the Illawarra community.
“We are very grateful for the support of all contributing artists who genuinely and generously gift their work to SCARF to help us raise funds to expand our social and economic inclusion programs for refugee entrants settling in the Illawarra,” Ms Reddy said.
This year’s Art4Refugee exhibition also features work from Najla Sbei, an artist with a refugee background who arrived in Australia only last year. Ms Sbei was a high-school teacher in the Syrian city of Damascus and this will be her first time exhibiting her art in Australia.
“It’s a really good opportunity for me because I came to Australia only one year ago,” said Ms Sbei “I didn’t really expect that I would be able to participate in an exhibition in just one year.”
Ms Sbei will also be speaking alongside George Gittoes at the opening evening.
“I felt that I’d like to say thank you…I usually don’t participate in any speeches,” Ms Sbei said.
Executive officer Sherryl Reddy said that with the ongoing crisis in Syria, it’s more important than ever to support refugee support services. In the last three months SCARF has helped welcome over 70 new refugee families from Syria and Iraq, and despite providing crucial services SCARF has received no government funding since it was started in 2005.
“For most of us, the thought of running for our lives, fleeing our homes, communities and everything that is familiar to us is unimaginable,” said Ms Reddy “While they [refugees] are determined to rebuild their lives here, they often encounter challenges of isolation, discrimination and exclusion.”
“SCARF seeks to address these challenges through providing a range of friendship-based practical programs to support refugee entrants throughout the settlement journey.”
The Art4Refugees opening evening starts 6pm tonight (7th October) at Project Contemporary Artspace. Tickets are still available and include a glass of champagne, Syrian finger food, live music and first access to artwork sales.