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IMAGINE ME


Front image: Cobie, 2014. Image courtesy of Sue Murray Back image: Brett, 2014. Image courtesy of Sue Murray Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, 1 Powerhouse Road, Casula Contact P (02) 9824 1121 E reception@casulapowerhouse.com W casulapowerhouse.com Produced by Roy Marchant, Producer Public Programs Design and Art Direction by Rachel Black

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IMAGINE ME


IMAGINE ME 5 DECEMBER 2015 - 7 FEBRUARY 2016


CONTENTS Introduction - Sue Murray

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Inside Out - Gillian Lavery

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Brett

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Cobie

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David

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Emily

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Greg

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Mark

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Paul 

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Caroline

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Eddy

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Hamish

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Pauline

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Richard

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Simon

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Steven

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Amanda

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Erin

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George

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Glenn

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Rocky

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Steve

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Michelle

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Chris

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INTRODUCTION “Projects like Imagine Me are an extremely important part of both the recovery process, and the wellbeing of everyone involved”, says Brett Henman, a past participant who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2013. “They bring back hope, social connection and an overall feeling of worth”. Imagine Me has been inspired by the resilience of the people living with spinal cord injury and acquired brain injury. The artworks in this catalogue have been selected from Imagine Me workshops held over the past three years in Sydney, Wollongong, and most recently Goulburn, Bathurst, and other major regional centres in NSW. Imagine Me began in November 2013. A pilot program developed a series of digital-imaging workshops where participants created self-portrait artworks using adaptive equipment. This equipment enabled someone with quadriplegia to control a digital camera and professional photographic studio using a mouth-stick with a mobile device. Since then people living with spinal cord injury and acquired brain injury have been invited to explore their imagination as they learn creative digital photography in the process of making a self portrait. Working collaboratively is integral to this creative process. Each individual participates in an exchange of their experiences and the Imagine Me workshop process facilitates the visualisation of these experiences.

Imagine Me continually develops and adapts to enable greater access for people with varying levels of ability. The most current photo-digital technology is researched and incorporated into the workshops. Recently new devices enabling digital drawing with photography using new touch screen technology is being used to assist people with acquired brain injury to participate in workshops. This exhibition of artworks encourages a deeper understanding toward people living with disability. The Imagine Me Royal Rehab Project in Regional NSW is supported by Australia Council for the Arts and NSW Government through the Lifetime Care and Support Authority and Arts NSW. In-kind support has been generously provided by Spinal Cord Injury Australia and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and Great City Signs. Imagine Me has also been supported by grants from Slater and Gordon Community fund, and by Delineate, an initiative of Accessible Arts in partnership with The Campaign sponsored by NSW Government, Department of Family & Community Services. Sue Murray - Creative Director Imagine Me

IMAGINE ME

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INSIDE OUT Self-portraiture has a long and rich history. Many artists have created portraits as part of their oeuvre; for some it is a central concern, for others self-portraiture is one branch of their art practice. Rembrandt notably made over one hundred self portraits over his lifetime ultimately creating a visual document of himself ageing. Likewise self portraiture was the crux of Freda Kahlo’s paintings, though Kahlo took a more metaphoric approach incorporating symbols and motifs into her artworks. Self portraiture provides artists a means to examine themselves closely, whether that is in order to create a photographic likeness or to reach below the surface of the skin and examine the self. For the participants in this exhibition self portraiture has opened up a creative space in which to face often challenging ideas about identity and representation. While the self is easily accessible as a subject matter it is not always an easy subject to face. For some it has been daunting, yet it has been embraced and overcome, and what has evolved through the process is an ownership of self representation. The process began with each participant developing a concept for how they wanted to represent themselves. For someone with a physical disability who often feels the judgement of others, there are few spaces where their imagination and creativity can be used to present a side of themselves that might not be as evident, but is important nonetheless. Not only does this project allow the participants to reflect upon how they are portrayed, it addresses the complexities of identity. While the participants are grouped together through having to live with a physical disability, each is individual and their experience of their disability is unique. This spectrum can be seen in the diversity of the resulting self-portraits. Interestingly many of the artists choose to incorporate animals in their works. Emily James’ self portrait depicts her face merging with the face of a tiger. Through this she references courage, bravery and elegance, qualities of the feline which exist within her. Similarly Eddy draws on the characteristics of a wolf in his portrait. Alongside animals, famous artworks have also been referenced in a number of the portraits. For example, Vermeer’s “Girl With the Pearl Earring” inspired Cobie Moore’s portrait. Moore posed

wearing an earring that she designed, choosing to identify herself as artist and jewellery designer. Paul Isaacs chose to reference Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork “Starry Night” in his artwork. The works are playful; they do not focus solely on the hardships or trauma of living with a physical disability. Rather they point to strengths of character, to personality traits that exist beyond the edges of the body. They demonstrate the strength it takes to express a side of yourself to the public. The collaborative process used in this project is quite unique in the genre. Self-portraiture, often a very solitary creative process, has been facilitated by a workshop environment. After the participant comes up with their concept, the project artist facilitates the realisation of their idea. It proves that with a bit of help anything is possible. Technology has been put to good use in this project. Living with a physical disability often requires the use of technologies that continue to be refined and advanced. Mark Tonga focused on the assistance of technology in his portrait depicting himself as both man and machine. Through the process of creating the portrait Tonga reflected upon how his life and the life of others with a physical disability is enhanced and extended through the assistance of technologies. The creation of these self portraits has also been made possible due to advancements in photographic technologies. Not only in the capturing of the image, assisted by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and touch screens, but also in the digital manipulation and editing of the image. This image manipulation has brought an expressive and imaginative quality to the self-portraits that feel more truthful than a photo-real representation. This exhibition reminds us that everyone is individual, that character is stronger than muscle and that creativity can open both maker and viewer to a different perspective. Identity lies beyond the lens of the camera, sometimes it just needs a bit of creativity and bravery to be brought to life. Gillian Lavery

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RISING This image represents the deflated feeling I felt when I initially got the spinal cord injury... But I have been slowly lifted up by the love of family and friends, and projects like this. Life goes on with endless opportunities. Weirdly enough, a lot of freedom has come with this life. No longer just grinding the Nine to Five. Brett

Sue Murray, Brett, 2013. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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IMAGINE ME


THE GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING I chose to appropriate Vermeer’s painting ‘The Girl With the Pearl Earring’ By appropriating Vermeer’s artwork I aimed to identify myself as an artist and jewellery designer. Sitting in the studio in front of the camera was a challenge. I felt a sense of vulnerability and came to the realisation that the feeling of being viewed or judged is a bigger part of my identity as a quadriplegic than I had previously admitted. Fighting against the reality of being powerless in many different circumstances is both an internal and external struggle that plays an important part in who I am. I fight against the notion that the wheelchair defines my identity as I don’t want to feel limited by my disability. On another level I identified with Vermeer’s work as a quadriplegic because I am unable to regulate my body temperature, & it is common for me to wrap my head in scarves as I only feel & regulate temperature in my head & neck. Temperature control plays an important role in my life & the lives of many other quadriplegics. It is an invisible issue that alters the way we live and interact with others. Being unable to regulate my own body temperature is sometimes dangerous but mostly it is just inconvenient as it interrupts my day to day life. When it is cold my muscles tighten & instead of feeling cold I feel pain which directly alters my ability to move & my overall mood. Lack of temperature control is also a social impairment as on cold days you will often find me with scarves wrapped around my head or even a blanket over my entire head making going out in public or having visitors uncomfortable. Cobie

Sue Murray, Cobie, 2013. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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IMAGINE ME


REGIME One effect of my SCI is bowel dysfunction. I manage this with a “bowel regime” that requires time to be set aside. For 40 years three times a week I have been, and will always be, “busy”. This leaves gaps in time that I am unavailable for the things I could be doing ... work, social life, etc. This is something that I keep private; colleagues, even some family and close friends don’t know, they just hear “sorry I can’t make it” “good idea but can we make it another time”. I have chosen this for my image because, more than using a wheelchair, the regime calendar governs my life and is integral to my internal identity. David

Sue Murray, David, 2013. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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FELINITY I chose to merge the face of a tiger with my face because tigers or feline animals often are associated with characteristics such as courage and bravery, whilst still remaining elegant. After my accident I have found that I need to face certain challenges that are a side effect of quadriplegia and I prefer to take on a feline attitude to do so. Emily

Sue Murray, Emily, 2013. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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DOMINO EFFECT After acquiring a spinal cord injury many years ago resulting in quadriplegia, I have needed to advocate from both a personal and professional perspective, to address various issues that are negatively impacting on the quality of life of people with a spinal cord injury (and people with physical disability in general). As bad attitudes towards people with disability can be the cause of many other barriers, I wanted my image to portray the domino effect of removing bad attitudes which can lead to removing discrimination, inequity and barriers etc. Greg

Sue Murray, Greg, 2013w. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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MACHINE MAN My ideas have evolved while making my image. I started by thinking about how SCI uses technology to improve peoples’ quality of life and this developed into the idea of the machine combined with the man. With spinal cord injury we rely heavily on technology. We will all live longer using technology. I think of myself as someone capable, someone strong. People look at me. I say yeah mate, I’m here. This is who I am. This is me. I deserve to be here. I’m no different to you. In my image I have that look. I’m ready to fight through life. Someone who is proud of who he is. Not afraid of people’s perceptions. My personal experience. I have had looks. but I’m not afraid of how I am. Don’t worry about me. Mark

Sue Murray, Mark, 2013. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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I DON’T GIVE A HOOT - Inspired by Van Gogh Starry Night I sing to myself ‘What a wonderful world’. In 1991 I was travelling around New Zealand. The woman who was driving put her foot on the accelerator instead of the brake and skidded off the road. I nearly died. Before 1991 I was very shy. After 1991 I didn’t give a hoot. Paul

Sue Murray, Paul, 2013z. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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CHAOS AND STABILITY Everything changed when I became a quadriplegic. The only constant has been my children. I had to establish myself as a disabled mother, with chaos all around me, mainly stemming from my partner, who was unable to cope with this new situation. My children’s world was totally shaken by my disability, making them anxious and worried. This was demonstrated differently by each girl, one internalizing grief and the other externalizing it. Both fearful of the unknown and the future. Our previously ordered life was now chaotic, unpredictable and scary for them. This chaos led me to set clear boundaries and consequences - a framework if you like. This led to the breakdown of my marriage. With a strong sense of legal and moral rules we became incompatible and this led to consequences. Rebuilding our life to remove chaos and regain order has required strength, setting of boundaries, consequences and commitment from each of us. The rules have helped us to know what is expected of each of us, so life can proceed as dreamed, but with a different map as a guide. I have learned to control what I can, seek support when I need to, focus on today, be grateful for what I have and not what I have lost. I have gained so much precious time with my girls, A chance to teach them social, moral and legal conduct. They have learned a great deal already and will be strong, resilient, independent women. This picture shows the chaos around me, but I am strong and determined to grow my girls into amazing citizens of the world believing in social justice, kindness and behaving nicely. Caroline

Sue Murray, Caroline, 2014. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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EDDY As a WOLF I am able to roam freely amongst them… Though I am real and I do exist - I can freely move amongst a crowd of people without being noticed by them. Although I am not invisible - my presence is often ignored by most of them. Even as I attempt to speak and be heard, most of them seem unable or unwilling to comprehend. It is like they don’t think I have a voice, as though I am unable to speak their language, as if they expect someone else to speak for me. They act as though, because I am different from them, I’m unable to communicate with them at all. Seldom do I find that people attempt to make eye contact with me, and nearly all of them seem to shun and look away from me upon my approach. This treatment, which I receive from the majority of people, means I can roam about within a crowd, yet none of them will acknowledge my existence. However, when I am in the outdoors amongst my fellow creatures of nature, they see me and engage in eye contact with me. They of course are animal beings rather than human beings, and it is they who acknowledge my existence, much more than my fellow humans. Perhaps they are afraid of me because I am different from them, or maybe it is their fears of the unknown. I am the unknown, which they fear. I am the one they do not want to confront nor spend time with. Perhaps it is because of their insecurities, prejudices and discriminations. I am nothing to be scared of. I am nothing but a Wolf, maybe a lone Wolf, a wounded Wolf. Yet always a clever Wolf, and most certainly a proud Wolf. Eddy

Sue Murray, Eddy, 2014. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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SELF PORTRAIT - ASCENSION I am a quadriplegic digital artist living and working on the far north coast of NSW. I work with a computer using a mouth controlled mouse to create my images. My artwork was originally inspired by creating a tattoo, and from there I have developed my ideas in both subject matter and style. This image is my first self portrait. The image I have placed over my face is called Ascension. It was the first piece of art I produced after my accident and making this image changed my whole outlook on life. Hamish

Sue Murray, Hamish, 2014. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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EARTH ANGEL Enabled by chance … Enabled by choice I find having a disability, although it has its challenges and trying times, it has been above all, a blessing in disguise. Although I live in a physically disabled person’s body, I live as freely as an able bodied person, without limitations, and I don’t see my disability as a negative. Going through dark periods, I began to question life and thought often about the things that have shaped me into becoming who I am, helping me to discover my life’s purpose. Over the years, a number of people close to me, referred to me as an “Earth Angel”... and I began to question why. What was so different about me that those that were nearest and dearest to me saw me as this “Angel”. I later discovered that they were inspired by my attitude to life, by making each day more magical the last, and not focusing on the negatives of my disability. To them this is something to look up to, but for me it’s my ‘norm’. It is my belief that ‘attitude is everything’ and if you choose to see yourself and your circumstances as a blessing, and appreciate this very human existence, and experiences we call life, in a positive way, no matter the physical body God has given you, you will lead a more fulfilling and purposeful life. Pauline

Sue Murray, Pauline, 2014. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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ALTITUDE OF ATTITUDE Accept what you can’t change. Change what you can’t accept. My reason for choosing to present myself as a human dragon is because a dragon is a loyal, powerful, strong being with a fire burning brightly inside. I also have a raging fire burning inside of me! With a hunger for life and everything it throws at me! I love to laugh and to make others laugh also. The thing I really dislike is when people look at me with pity in their eyes! I hate it when people ask “how are you?” I tell them that “I’m really good”, but minutes later they are asking “but how are you really” and then they are asking my parents “is he really doing okay”. Hence my reason for using the Dragon in this workshop. I don’t want to be pitied or felt sorry for just because I’m in a wheelchair. Since my accident in 1983, I have learnt to slow down and to smell the flowers and appreciate what is happening in the world around me. I have also been blessed with some great mentors who have helped me become the man I am today! Alex, Neville and most importantly my parents. I really want to encourage people who have a disability like myself! While we may be limited with our physical abilities, modern technology today enables us to compete on an equal footing with the rest of the world. These are my current favourite assistive technologies: camranger, jamboxx and quadjoy. Richard C4/C5 Quadriplegic as a result of diving from a bridge 8m into about 60cm of water.

Sue Murray, Richard, 2014. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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SIMON The inspiration for my portrait comes from the poem footprints in the sand, a version of which is shown below. In the six years since my accident there have been many lows (as well as highs) and I have no doubt that my faith in Jesus has carried me through the low periods. He continues to be the cornerstone of my journey forward in life. There is however a duality to the portrait insomuch as while I acknowledge and am thankful for the strength I have received in Jesus I would still like some of those footsteps to be mine.

FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson, 1936 One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints. So I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?” The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.” Simon

Sue Murray, Simon, 2014. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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BROKEN I am broken, but I’m still Steven. Everybody stares, but I’m still Steven. Life is limited, but I’m still Steven. I look in the mirror I don’t see me, but I’m still Steven. I can’t cuddle my children, but I’m still Steven. I can’t cuddle my wife, but I’m still Steven. I carry on regardless, but I’m still Steven. I look disabled, but I’m still Steven. Steven

Sue Murray, Steven, 2014. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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BEAUTY IN MOTION Being beautiful is about how we perceive. My self image is beautiful and perfect and the ability to say that comes from having learned to love who I am, inside and outside. Believing you have this inside yourself is a vital journey you must take – To acknowledge your own beauty, especially if your self perception changes through no fault of your own - Bang Crash, in a flash, like a photo, You are caught in a moment in time. Your image of yourself changes like slow motion. So slow. Then suddenly you will eventually feel that you are Beauty in Motion. Amanda

Sue Murray, Amanda, 2015. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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LIFE IS ABOUT CHANGE Life is about change. Some we choose while other changes are forced upon us. I have tried hard to be resilient and to embrace all the changes that have occurred in my life. My passions have been sporting in nature. After a long and chronic illness being in a wheelchair finally allows me to participate in sports again. My heart is singing and I feel free for the first time in many years. Please tell me what I can do in it and not what I can’t. Erin

Sue Murray, Erin, 2015. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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AFTER PICASSO Out of all the pictures I saw in the workshop it was the painting of Picasso’s that I liked. It is colourful, cheery and a bit different from the run-of-the-mill portraits. My portrait is based on this painting of Picasso’s. George

Sue Murray, George, 2015. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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REMEMBERING Losing the ability to do the things you love is hard, remembering the feeling you used to get while doing the thing you love is easy, and brings back a reason to smile. Glenn

Sue Murray, Glenn, 2015. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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THE COGS KEEP ON TURNING I keep myself busy with things to do, But when I stop I think of you. Rocky

Sue Murray, Rocky, 2015. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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CLEAR THE MIND Clear the mind of all cloudiness and get rid of all negative thoughts. This is my interpretation of what all athletes should strive for. Steve

Sue Murray, Steve, 2015. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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STAYING AFLOAT I look back on that day and so wish things were different. Doing something I loved quickly turned into mine and my loved one’s worst nightmare. Below the water my body was completely broken and all the dreams I knew were shattered. My partner, family and closest friends remained by my side giving me the love, positive support and energy I needed. Without them I wouldn’t have survived. Even people I didn’t know sent me their love, support and words of encouragement and continue to do so during my recovery. Good friends and the community rallied around to support me, they worked tirelessly to raise funds to assist me and my future. I will be forever grateful and can’t thank them enough for what my friends and the community did for me. It was truly amazing. I’ve lost many things that I loved, especially the simple things I took for granted. I have been reminded constantly that everything is different now, that nothing is the same anymore. However my mind is alive and I’m the same person inside. Everyday I improve, I do something new and more movement comes back. I can now walk with an aid and my legs grow stronger each day. Rehab has been my home for many months, the staff have been my family and I’ll always be grateful. As time goes on, distance and everyday life has understandably taken it’s toll. Some people have slowly disappeared, some even have decided they can’t do this anymore. Reality slowly sinks in as I near going home, however I remain positive that I will stay strong and achieve my goals. I’ll never give up hope. Michelle

Sue Murray, Michelle, 2015. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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SUPERMAN You can still think you are superman. Only now you know your limitations. My deepest fear is not that I’m inadequate, but that I am powerful beyond measure. I ask myself who am I not to be brilliant. Fabulous, amazing. Actually who am I not to be? Playing small does not serve the world, There’s nothing good about shrinking Into the background. Chris

Sue Murray, Chris, 2015. Image courtesy of Sue Murray.

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Imagine Me would like to thank the following organisations that have enabled workshops to be held for people living with spinal and brain injury across NSW. The Royal Rehab Imagine Me Project in Regional NSW is supported by Australia Council for the Arts and NSW Government through the Lifetime Care and Support Authority and Arts NSW.


Imagine Me  

spinal cord injury art workshops Imagine Me is an innovative creative awareness-raising project empowering people with spinal cord injury t...

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