Finding  Ithaka




Finding Ithaka is an intergenerational community arts project that celebrates the creativity of elderly people in aged care centres through their active engagement in art. The project is one part of a long term program plan called Ferns which aims to create greater opportunities for elderly people living in regional, rural and remote areas of Queensland to participate in the arts.

In 2014 seven artists from Crossroad Arts will develop skill based workshops in theatre, film, dance, weaving and music in the towns of Mackay, Dysart, Gladstone and Biloela in Central Queensland between July 14 and November 22 2014.   

The project will explore the importance of home and memory in people’s lives. It will also celebrate ‘creating in the moment’ in the lives of people who experience dementia.

As well as drawing on the stories and experiences of the participants, we will also examine the great life struggles and fears faced by Penelope and her wandering husband Odysseus, in Homer’s epic tale The Odyssey.

The project is financially supported through: The Tim Fairfax Family Foundation; The Australia Council for the Arts; Arts Queensland and Bluecare






1. What is Ithaka:

Ithaka is an island in Greece. It was the home of Odysseus and his wife Penelope. It is the place that he reluctantly left to go and fight in the Trojan War for10 years. And it is the home he longs to return to after the war.




2. What has a 3000 year old story written by a blind poet got anything to do with elderly people in aged    

    care in 2014? The great hero myths often shine a light on the universal struggles we all face during our lifetime.  Penelope and Odysseus are complex characters and fear the unknown. Both have flaws. Each of them face insurmountable obstacles in their longing to be together.  Everyday we come across heroes in the staff and residents of Nursing Homes, who in their own way battle demons. We also chose the story because it was a bold step in challenging community perceptions of aged care centres and the people that live and work in them. We wanted to also show that great art that touches the deepest emotions and broadens our minds, can emerge from these centres.




3.  What happens in the workshops?

There are several different workshops, including dance, singing, weaving, music, photography and storytelling.  Each workshop runs for approximately 1 hr.



The Weaving workshop for example uses a Japanese Saori weaving technique which quite deliberately encourages flaws in the design to create a unique and individual style in the pattern. Each person will create their own mat and these will eventually be joined together to make a larger banner. Eventually all banners from each town will come together.



Timeslips workshops use photographs and painting to focus specifically on documenting stories created in the moment by people who experience dementia.



Visualization and Reminiscence Workshops uses a variety of sensory strategies to help elderly people recall memories.




4. How is the project Intergenerational ?

While the focus of the project is on people in aged care, the participants who will join the workshops and final outcomes as both support workers and volunteer artists, come from all abilities and range in age from high school students through to adults and retirees. In some cases students will participate in separate film making workshops to teach them the techniques involved in creating short visual documents on the lives of elderly people.




5.  Where will the project take place and how long will it go for?

‘Finding Ithaka’ will take place in Mackay from July 14 to Sept 6 ; Dysart from Oct 13-17 2014; Gladstone and Biloela from Sept 8 to Oct 6. Each town and centre will have an exhibition outcome. In Mackay there will be a performance and exhibition outcome on Nov 19 through to Nov 22 at Homefield.




6. Who are Crossroad Arts?

We are a professional community arts organisation who have worked for the past 18 years in partnership with communities who often don’t have a voice and want to tell their stories. Much of our work is focused in the disability and aged care sectors.




7. Who are the artists?

The team is led by Artistic Director Steve Mayer-Miller. He is a published playwright with 35 years of professional community arts and teaching practice throughout Australia, India, Japan and the Asia Pacific Region.  He recently returned from Washington where he represented Crossroad Arts at the International Leadership Exchange Conference on Creative Ageing. 

Pam Hutley MA is one of Queensland’s most respected weavers. Her works are exhibited nationally and abroad.

Wanda Bennett MA is a professional community artist whose sculptures and art work are exhibited nationally and abroad.

Karen Bonham is a musician, singer and composer.  She is currently working to create the Homefield Aged Care Choir

Brenden Borellini is an emerging artist in photography. Brenden is deaf and blind and will be documenting the participants using digital photography and a tactile image enhancer.. Brenden was also Young Australian of the Year in 1989.

Kyla Ranger is a young emerging artist in her first year of practice at Crossroad Arts where she also works as an administrator.

Rosie Fyvie is a young emerging artist in her first year of Social Services at QUT in Brisbane. She began her mentorship with Crossroad Arts in 2012.  All the artists have been working at Homefield Aged Care Centre in Mackay for the past 2 years.




8. How do we judge the success of the project? An ongoing outcomes based evaluation method will be used with input from staff, residents and artists. Crossroad Arts also use the Most Significant Change technique to measure progress. A blog has been set up on the Finding Ithaka page of this website. The artists, staff and residents reflect on the processes and outcomes of the project.  




9. How do we find out about Crossroad Arts?

Visitwww.crossroadarts.com.au or go to our Facebook page.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  Ph: +61 0749535122

Finding Ithaka is about the transformational power of art in the lives of elderly people in aged care and respite centres.




10. How can I find out more about the project: There is a blog on this website where the artists, participants and staff write about their observations , feelings and reflections on the day to day activities in the workshops.  




FACT: A significant body of formal research across several countries has concluded that using active art techniques in aged care centres has made a significant improvement to the lives of elderly people and reduced their reliance on medication.