Recognising 100 years of Maternal and Child Health services through art

This month a series of art murals are being installed around the City of Yarra in celebration of 100 years of Maternal and Child Health services.

Yarra City Arts and the Maternal and Child Health Service of the City of Yarra have partnered up to develop an Art Trail, featuring a series of pop-up artworks installed around the Yarra at different Maternal and Child Health (MCH) centres, from June 30.

Commissioned by the Yarra City Council, the purpose of the Art Trail is to acknowledge and celebrate the history of MCH services and the importance of the centres to local communities. The Art Trail is a part of the project #100MCH, which is currently being curated by experienced historian Cassie May.

The centenary is being celebrated through art because, “Art communicates to everyone, [and shows] how important the service is, and how it started 100 years ago [but] is still relevant today,” said curator, Cassie May.

Kitty Owens, All Hail Sister Muriel Peck, 2017, vinyl print at Princess Hill Maternal and Child Health Centre.Photo: Yarra Arts

Working alongside Cassie May, to create the Art Trail, are artists Kitty Owens and Lizzie Dennis.

Both Kitty Owens and Lizzie Dennis were brought onto the project because of their personal experience with the MCH services and their ability to empathise with families and new mothers using the MCH services.

“I knew that they could feel [and] express and funnel [their emotions and empathy] into a single piece of content, [and] it’s delightful to see that they enjoy their work,” said Cassie.

The Art Trail takes the public on a tour of the sites located in the Yarra where MCH services were initially set up and still exist today. Each site tells a different story through the painted or paste-up art pieces.

“We draw the public’s attention to those spaces in a new way.  Not only is some of the history of the sites exposed, through Kitty Owen’s historical paste-ups (Love Them Back) for instance, but the sites are also reinvigorated,” said artist Lizzie Dennis.

“[The] contemporary painting of simple line work (located at the MCH centre, South Richmond) may not be seen at first glance, but hopefully the discovery of the imagery provides a happy moment of reflection and perhaps even memory back to those crawling, feeding, playing and reading moments, and in turn the appreciation for the amazing maternal and child health services we are lucky to have,” she said.

Kitty Owens, All Hail the Campaigners. Photo: Yarra Arts

The Maternal and Child Health Service of today is an invaluable resource for families with children from birth to school age. It not only promotes healthy outcomes but provides free practical support and advice.

The purpose of the service is to reduce the high death rate of babies in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne, providing free practical advice to mothers and families regarding nutrition, breastfeeding, hygienic preparation of milk, and mothercraft, according to the Yarra City Art website.

“The value of the MCH service and the need to acknowledge those that established the service and continue to provide the service today [is important].  As a mother of one and [with] one on the way, I have directly experienced the help and assistance that the Maternal and Child Health Care services provide, and understand the necessity for such services,” said Lizzie Dennis.

The 10 buildings that will be included as part of the Art Trail are:

-Abbotsford/Collingwood Maternal and Child Health Centre

-Alphington Maternal and Child Health Centre

-Connie Benn Centre

-Princes Hill Maternal and Child Health Centre

-North Fitzroy Maternal and Child Health Centre

-North Richmond Maternal and Child Health Centre

-South Richmond Maternal and Child Health Centre

-Gold Street Children’s Centre

-Baby Health Centre

You can follow the project on Instagram @YarraCityArts #100MCH to track the artworks at each location.

Written by Zathia Bazeer

Zathia Bazeer

Zathia Bazeer is a 'Melburnian' currently studying Public Relations at RMIT University. She is passionate about issues related to race, religion and women's rights.

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