I received this report along with heartbreaking photos today from Maggie Fletcher, the Arts and Business Manager at the Warmun Art Centre:
To everyone who has sent their encouragement and offers to help – a really big thank you – to others who may not know what has happened up here- this is a short update.
Warmun Art Centre has been almost destroyed. We lost about 90% of the works – washed away down the river- but by grace of being in an enclosed space have saved at least half of the community’s archival collection – many rather sodden and covered in mud but if we are allowed to stay, we hope to get them dried out before they are mouldy and ruined. It has been so wonderful to have so many offers of help but unfortunately there is no way in. The roads are still cut in both directions and may be for some time as bridges and roads need major reconstruction.
After weeks of heavy rain and in particular overnight into Sunday 13th, Turkey Creek rose to levels that have devastated the Warmun community. We always thought the art centre may have been built a bit low down but who would have thought that the school could ever be in danger- they have lost everything. The water inundated the whole community and spread across about 2 km with water pouring onto us from all sides. Sunday morning we were getting nervous about the way the creek was rising so we stacked all the paintings in the art gallery onto tables so ‘just in case’ the water did get as high as the floor, then at least the paintings would not get wet. Little could we comprehend how high the water would go and how ferocious its force. When even the studio looked to be in danger Gary ran in and managed to get as much as he could up to higher shelving but then ran out in danger of being trapped as the water rose so quickly. Then the sickening sound of the gallery walls collapsing we just had to sit tight and realise the enormity of the situation. It was already too late for the people living on this side of Turkey Creek to get to safety in the green house which mercifully stands on solid concrete stilts. By about 9 pm we gratefully saw signs of the levels abating as we counted the number of steps we could see and only then could some people wade across to us to sleep the night on dry ground. The ABC website has more pictures that show the devastation to the gallery.
We currently have no power but have managed to find a way to connect just today with the internet world intermittently. The art centre main line (91687496) is out but the fax number is working (not for faxes though) but we are not often in the office so can’t always answer it but please leave a message to contact us and we will get back to you when we can. Works waiting to be sent to customers are safe, I think, but it will be a while before we can get them to you. There are many matters needing attention so it may take a while, so thank you for your patience and your kind thoughts. Those holding Warmun Art on consignment are now custodians of works very very special until we get back on our feet.
The main thing is – the Warmun Art Centre will be rebuilt. The artists are saying – we will start again – build it up- make it strong again – when we get back. The community is being evacuated. We are staying as long as we can to secure what is left and to dry out as much as we can. We don’t yet know what is left. Please don’t forget us, Warmun Art will return and we are all working towards restoring the community who have lost their homes and everything in them. This is their country, its where they grew up and its it’s their place and needs to be so they will not give up in getting their community rebuilt and coming back as soon as possible.
Please pass this message as I don’t have access to all our files and contacts. If you know any way you can help the community to reconstruct, please let us know.