Gill champion for rural creativity

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Jackie Gill has a penchant for watercolours and writing but her true passion lies in helping others use art as a way to express themselves.
Camera IconJackie Gill has a penchant for watercolours and writing but her true passion lies in helping others use art as a way to express themselves. Credit: Supplied

Jackie Gill is not only an artist, she has been one of the trailblazers of Geraldton’s art scene.

Though her creative roots stem from traditional watercolours and writing, Gill’s true passion lies in creating opportunities for community members to express themselves through art.

Gill’s determination to help others embrace their creativity saw the mother-of-two put her paintbrushes down for 15 years, only getting back into painting in the past two years.

“I was working in arts administration, working on behalf of other artists,” she said.

“I might be a visual artist, but my passion is in using art as a tool.

“Art can give people that don’t have a voice a place to speak and a way to tell their stories. That’s not available in any other form, any other way.”

Born in Morawa, Gill was drawing on every surface of the house from the day she could hold a pencil.

Despite the rest of her family being mad about sport, Gill’s parents were still supportive of her creative endeavours; encouraging her to enter competitions and surrounding her with artistic mentors.

When Gill was 14 years old she teamed up with her friend, Evelyn Correy, to create the Eneabba News.

“My community development started very early,” Gill said.

“I just knew from a really early age how important it was for people to have a reason to come together, to communicate, to be with other people and to belong.

“And art is a way of bringing communities together.”

After high school Gill was going to continue her studies in art, but was offered a cadetship with The West Australian newspaper.

Knowing she could always return to art at a later date, Gill jumped at the opportunity and in 1979 she became the first female journalist employed at the Geraldton Guardian.

Despite having her own column to discuss women’s issues, Gill was a “rampant feminist” working in a male-dominated industry. “I was never invited to have a beer with the boys or anything like that,” she said.

“It was a dichotomy, first you get his (the editor’s) cigarettes, which the blokes didn’t have to do, and they’d gave me free rein with an opinion column.

“It was very paradoxical, what’s happening behind the scenes in no way relates to the stories being used.”

A few years working as a journalist in Karratha saw the grandmother of two net herself a number of media awards, and she would later become editor of the Midwest Times.

Gill eventually returned to art in the 80s, studying at TAFE while continuing to write short stories and the occasional news article.

During this time the 59-year-old delved deeper into the world of community art, working for the Geraldton Regional Community Education Centre.

Gill’s passion for the arts helped her become one of the founding members of the Arts Council of WA, now known as Country Arts WA, and she even ended up fighting for the arts on the Geraldton council.

“(The council) didn’t put any money in the arts except for in the theatre,” she said.

“So I went on, got elected and we changed the composition of council simply so the arts would get a hearing.”

As the millennium neared, Gill had shifted more into community development and ended up living in Perth with her family.

But in 2005 the frantic Perth lifestyle became too much and the family headed back to Geraldton.

Nowadays Gill leads a much more relaxing lifestyle, running the accommodation business Weelaway on Gregory, the former home of Geraldton mayor George Sewell, with her partner, Brian Poller.

Gill has even found the time to get back into painting, shifting away from her beloved watercolours to explore the world of acrylics.

“I wanted a new challenge, I’m in a very learning phase at the moment,” she said.

“At the moment I just paint for a three hour block, and what I get to at the end of that three hour block I leave.

“I’m not trying to finish anything, just trying to find out what styles suits.

“Every time you pick up a brush, your style is slightly evolving.

“You’re always trying to learn something new. It’s very satisfying.”

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