Interview with Panorama Project Coordinator & Local Artist, Michèle Jedlicka
Images have been provided by Michèle Jedlicka & The Panorama Project
Michèle Jedlicka is a photographer, writer, and filmmaker who lives in the west of Delungra NSW. Michèle is currently the project coordinator and manager for the Arts North West Panorama Project. Metaphorically speaking, she has been the binder to many pages of local imagination and creativity in the New England North West.
The Panorama Project has been a pretty cool initiative that has brought together different artists all across the region. It began with a series of individual sketchbooks being sent to participants who meticulously curated each page to reflect their own imaginative and talented voice, as well as the regions. The sketchbooks are now in the process of being collected so they can become part of a travelling exhibition across the New England North West for several months.
We spoke to Michèle about the project, where you can see the exhibition, and how it initiative a sense of community during the unprecedented months earlier this year.
Where did the idea of the Panorama Project come from and what has your role involved?
The Panorama Project has been entirely funded by Arts North West as a unique project. My role has been to develop and enable the project; from sourcing and organising the paper and printer for the sketchbooks, establishing relationships with regional services supporting people who needed assistance to access the sketchbooks, and publicising the project to let people know it was happening. I manage the project, and so I correspond with almost everybody involved, and pull the pieces together to make it all come to life as a body of work.
Technically, I’m not on the Arts North West staff. My involvement with the Panorama Project began when Arts North West executive director Caroline Downer contacted me about coordinating the project after a workshop I had planned to manage was put on the back burner because of COVID-19. Panorama was originally going to be a face-to-face workshop with people with disabilities. But, we decided that with the special circumstances the pandemic has caused, we decided to opened it up to everybody in the region, 16 and over. The name of the project was Caroline’s idea and reflects the wide view of this vast New England North West region.
The idea of the project is based on New York’s Brooklyn Library Sketchbook Project. I thought it was a terrific idea because this was happening literally in time with all of us having to go into lockdown.
Where will we be able to view the exhibition?
Participants are in the process of dropping off their books this month. Support services for people with disability, aged care, and for the socially isolated are also collecting the sketchbooks they have provided to those participants.
Once they are all together, the exhibition of the collection is planned to launch in Glen Innes Library, tentatively on, or about Friday, 19 October. It will then travel to Our Place Café in Tenterfield, and then Inverell Library. The exhibition will hibernate over Christmas before heading to Guyra and then making the rounds of local libraries across the entire region. We’re in the process of finalising the itinerary and dates, but It looks like people will be able to find this exhibition, COVID-considering, somewhere in the New England North West until July 2021.
Once the tour is over, we will organise the return of all the sketchbooks back to their owners.
It’s so nice to see you building a sense of community through art in these uncertain times!
Yes, it’s really terrific. The slideshows we did on the Panorama Project website gave some people an understanding of the many participants in the project, and that while everybody had their own approach, each person started with the same little sketchbook. I hope we get as many returned as possible so the entire region can have a chance to see what people accomplished together during this experience.
This is such a mindful project, how has it supported local artists?
I’m so glad to know people were interested in giving it a go, and its been so nice hearing from so many people how meaningful it has been to them. People who took up the project came from all disciplines: visual arts, fibre, writing, photography. There were no limits or definitions about any of our expectations. I think this allowed people to accessibly approach their sketchbooks as they felt most comfortable.
As far as supporting people who work as professional artists, I can say from personal experience, it’s a tough road, and this project gave many of those artists a small stipend to help them in their careers.
But as a person raised and educated in the arts, and as a teacher and mentor, I have a deep-seated belief a person can find self-identity and validation, confidence, a voice, and empowerment through the arts. How we value the work as a viewer is an entirely different thing, and especially with this project. I was really glad to see a kind of creative reawakening or a new sense of discovery that was found by many of the people who took part in the Panorama Project. Some people taught themselves how to draw and paint, and some learned new skills. Many people used their sketchbooks as a place they recorded the emotional rollercoaster they were feeling as we have reeled through these many months living with COVID-19.
Have there been any standouts from the project?
Gosh, I couldn’t pinpoint just one. Some of the most beautiful pages I’ve seen have probably been those that reflect the pure feelings and human touch of the maker alongside some personal stories. And that has moved me to tears more than once.
I feel very honoured to be managing this project and grateful to Arts North West for giving me the opportunity. It’s a long way from being over, but we’re nearing the first major milestone in collecting the sketchbooks after a few months in their owners’ hands. It will soon be time for the public to see that extraordinary effort.
A snippet of the project;
Thank you so much for your time, Michèle! We’re loving the #PanoramaProject – we will be following along online where the project tour locations and dates will be available by the first week of October. As well as on Instagram and Facebook. It’s fantastic having community projects like this!