Dear Geelong, You are my hometown. Even more, my home. I’ve left you and moved to other cities, cities where the roofs almost touch the sky and public transport is more abundant than here.
One day maybe I’ll live in another city for a while, a place where they have never heard for you notwithstanding possible football glory. But even then, you will still be my hometown, my home.
Our relationship has been love/hate, especially in high school.
“Geelong has no culture,” I sighed, aged 15-17.
If the walls could have spoken, how they would have given up what artists have said about Geelong. Real artists: both undercover and transparent as a pink poodle.
Sometimes they said, mean things like Geelong has no culture.
Yet, who said Geelong was Montparnasse anyway?
All I can tell you is my story: the tale of some artist who has exhibited a million years ago at places around this city: some cafes and restaurants which have now gone to better places. Or worse places.
26 years of life and I’m hardly warranted to say anything wise. How can I give a “message” to Geelong?
I can’t. Or I could and face certain death, a fate akin to such messenger.
I once had a friend who called Geelong ‘the City of Dreams.’ He was from Geelong, living in more ‘exotic’ shores.
He didn’t mean it in an optimistic way, my gut told me.
But guess what? Your guess was right.
It’s true: this is the city of dreams, because there’s still a lot to be done.
Pay homage to all the other arts crusaders who came before you: who read this before you and were born a week before you or seventy years.
Honour those funky cafes which once sold and presented artwork, which have now become shifting sands of restaurants; where once artwork was seen on walls, happily coexisting with menus and white wine.
But also remember – and seek out – talented, secretive artists painting incandescent artworks from Belmont lounge rooms.
Or that person who doodles while on the phone: surpressing a brilliant gift because art is not economically “feasible.”
Watch out: artists can become worse than jaded. They can morph like Superman back into Clark Kent, doing only the day job until one day they release a time bomb of desire inside them.
Don’t let it come to that. Take it from me, maybe I am wise.
I used to paint: live it, breathe it (literally) and dream of it. Monet was my hero, Polluck was a genius and half my clothes were proudly wrecked.
Then, something happened.
The carpet became too clean, I couldn’t find any privacy even in an empty house and the natural fluidity of painting became tainted by self-consciousness and dry spells.
Never mind, my love of writing kicked in and compensated for the painting love, as well. Soon I was not just a writer and painter: I was a writer.
Take it from this wise monkey: stand up for what you believe in, your art.
Is it better to paint something half-brilliant which engages people than neglect to paint something which could be perfect?
Take a deep breath and go back to kinder. Where you were allowed to paint. And be free, and go on artistic adventures that maybe no one else will ever understand.
Because you are.
Geelong, time for us to pull our gifts out of the rusty place we hide them and start a fan-dangle circus, with lions doing the cha cha and cheerfully paint splattered designer tshirts.
But even if the circus never comes, you are my hometown. Even more, my home.
One of your residents
*N.B. This text was originally written for Illumination, a July 2010 words/art event by Courthouse ARTS.