Gratitude for creativity in Shared Stories Anthology 2019

Shared Stories is a unique publication in the form of an anthology of creative works by Victorian Catholic school students. It began in 2006 after Sydney’s Cronulla riots; awakening the minds and hearts of youth who wanted to channel ideas and shared experiences through positive cultural and social engagement among their generation. The anthology is now part of the State Library of Victoria’s permanent collection. After more than a decade, the number of primary and secondary schools involved each year continues to climb.

Peter Farrar, of Star of the Sea College in Brighton, is the Shared Stories Anthology Coordinator and he describes the creative contribution to the book as something far more significant than a yearly art project.

“What is so important for these students about being part of this publication, working towards it and finally becoming published, is that it gives them a voice outside of their own family. That is what this book has given them each year. Their work is so profoundly personal, it really has come from the heart of the student. It’s genuine and very authentic.”

The anthology is one of a kind because of its visual and literary documentation. It represents the perspective and developmental journey of young adult thinking and artistic expression over time.

“The theme this year was gratitude. Thirty-two schools have been involved in the Anthologies over the last six years. This year’s theme proved to be a beautiful way of honouring the family, and it honours the relationships within the family that need to be preserved. Schools see great value in that. They know that these stories and poems are retained forever. What is so special about these works is that they show each and every student, from the age of 5 years to 18 years, that they are on the same journey. There’s something tremendously powerful in how they’ve all contributed to the book because it’s a snapshot of that year.”

The contributors work in a range of mediums including painting, drawing, poetry, and prose.

“Writing was a feature this year,” says Peter Farrar.

“The book shows great ideas and wisdom, and a desire to share dreams. The Shared Stories Anthology connects students back to reading. It’s the tactile experience that is special. When they have the anthology in their hands and see their work in this book they know they’ve made it, and they know that thousands will see the work.”

Tia Giarrocco completed Year 12 at Star of Sea in 2019, and her work is included in the Shared Stories Anthology for the year. Her creative thinking was inspired by her Art and Design study tour to New York. There she observed people consumed by their phones and being connected to their devices, especially while commuting. She was also fascinated by the city’s subways for its character and diversity. Her Shared Stories contribution presented the idea of technology and disconnection through her painting Phone Obsession, in which a man on the subway is oblivious to his surroundings and uninterested in his own untied shoelaces as he stares at his phone.

 “I wanted to create a sense of irony in the work Phone Obsession. I started with a traditional medium of oil paint and juxtaposed this with the subject of technology to create a contrast. I made the work from a photograph I took in New York. The image was modern, the phone and clothing are all modern and so using oil paint was what I preferred to present the juxtaposition.”

“The trip to New York was an amazing experience and opened my mind to the concept of individuality and humanity. There were galleries there, artwork and street art that inspired me.”

Tia Giarrocco sees the heightened connectivity of technology and devices as a double-edged sword and wants people to remember to be grateful for the small details in life.

“Gratitude is so important to me, everyone needs to appreciate the little things. Everyone should be grateful for what they have and not what they want.”

With more young adults over-using technology and some becoming dependent on devices, the young artist notes that questions arise about whether people are more or less connected from others in friendship circles and communities.

“I think it’s a bit of both. In some ways you can be more connected because you can see what everyone is doing and you’re aware of what is going on with others. On the other hand, the social media space generally portrays a glorified version of a person and their life. I think that creates disconnection and superficiality. Technology has good and bad uses.”

Tia Giarrocco has graduated Year 12 and looks forward to studying Design at Monash University.

“I hope to continue in the areas of Design and Architecture. I really hope the Shared Stories Anthology keeps inspiring students to express their ideas in art and writing.”

Peter Farrar is delighted by the bond between participating schools and a commitment to the publication annually.

“If you look at the anthology this year, once again it shows the extraordinary range of ideas, genre, style and form. The standard of writing is extremely high.”

CCI Personal Insurance continues to support this unique and important initiative that promotes critical thinking, creativity, and ideas among students.