They say a picture tells a thousand words, but for Tim Shierlaw, chairman of the Victor Harbor Art Show, a painting hides a story.
The annual exhibition is a project of Rotary Victory Harbor, and there will be 1400 entries – including for the first time sculptures – on the lawns of Warland Reserve from January 11-18, tipping the total proceeds from the 41 art shows over $1.6 million.
Of this remarkable amount, about 12 per cent has supported overseas programs like the Umoja Project, an orphanage in Kenya, and housing or water projects in Fiji, India and Timor-Leste. It even contributed to the Christchurch Massacre Fund.
Tim has twice been to Kenya where there are 2.6 million orphans, many of whom walk several kilometres in 40-degree heat to line-up to receive a tray of rice, beans and a bread roll – their only meal for the week. He will go back there again this year.
Proceeds from each painting sold at our art show represents a mere drop in this sea of seemingly Kenyan hopelessness, but Tim also sees how it helps him personally. Another worthwhile local project this art show has supported is the Ocean-to-Outback Bike Ride for Mental Health, and Tim freely opens himself up to having endured mental health issues for 15 years.
It represents an exceptional twist in kindness; experiencing the immense personal reward that comes with giving it to others as a Rotarian, and on the other hand knowing what it means to be a recipient of such a profound blessing.
Despite years of medication and Electric Convulsion Therapy, and especially amazing support from his caring family – his wife, Kate, and their children Alex, 18, Ella, 14 – Tim quietly responded “not really” when asked whether he was okay. He had to leave his successful accounting business in Victor Harbor when he moved to Adelaide in 2016. He is highly unlikely to work at the same level again. He comes back here fortnightly to attend Rotary meetings.
“I am better than I was in terms of mental health because I now know how to deal with it,” Tim said. “The improvement started as soon as I opened up to it. For years I have gone on medication after medication. I get minor relief… I feel better knowing what my day can be about.
“Rotary has been very important to me during this time. It is my escape and keeping my connections with the community. The support that I have here is amazing.”
Tim had previously been chairman of the Victor Harbor Art Show for three years up to 2016, and said he felt good to have played a small part in what this event had done for the town over the years. We are talking about countless projects like creating a helicopter pad at South Coast District Hospital, providing an Australian Rotary Health Research Fund PhD scholarship, youth projects and the Dr Fred Heddle Scholarship which supports financially restrained children mainly in tertiary education.
“We will soon work on a viewing and information deck at Kings Beach,” he said with much pride.
However, not for one moment does he see his contribution greater than any other Rotarian. “Every year there are about 200 volunteers who work on the Victor Harbor Art Show, a project of Rotary Victor Harbor,” he added. “Some do one four-hour shift, others do eight shifts.
“Rotary Victor Harbor should feel very proud of what it has achieved with the art show over 41 years. When it first started it was in a small tent and they’d bring the paintings out every day and put them on mesh screens and at night cover them with brown canvas. Rotarians would sleep in little tents overnight.
“We would hang 400 paintings the days before we went to an indoor marquee. We have shown as many as 1600 entries, and this year for the first time we will have sculptures included.
“We are so proud to have as judge Yvonne East, a former resident of Victor Harbor. She was an art student when living here and has since enjoyed a remarkable career having twice been a finalist in the coveted Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, and currently lectures in art and design at the University of NSW.
“The chairman’s role is from the July to the end of February each time, and I like to do my part because it’s community. It’s not about one person; that’s what Rotary is. We have 55 members and we each contribute in some way.
“I am not an artist, but I have bought a lot of art and I have an appreciation for art.”
You may have noted the subtle change to Rotary Victor Harbor’s name – the reference to ‘club’ has been removed. According to Tim, today’s generation doesn’t seem to like the concept of being tied to a club, and by not mentioning it there is hope Gen Y will at least contemplate being part of its programs and ideals. The core values including indelible friendships remain.
Tim will look at the 1400 entries at this year’s Victor Harbor Art Show and discover something special in each one. In the strangest of ways he will see a bike.
With a wry grin he spoke of how Rotary had supported him with his mental health issues through the big bike ride, and until its conception he had never imagined he would join those who wear Lycra and ride a bike. See, every painting hides a story. Tim’s is about courage and knowing the value of being kind and receiving kindness.
The 41st Victor Harbor Art Show will start with a special ticketed-preview on Friday, January 10, and then be open to the public until January 18 from 9.30am-8.30pm. Entry including a program is adults $8, with children under 16 age free. Proceeds go to Rotary community projects.