I’ve grown up and lived the majority of my life in Western Sydney, and during much of that time I saw my area as being essentially barren when it came to the arts and any related opportunities. It often seemed to me that the disadvantages of the west were immutable and unscaleable. I was wrong, very wrong in fact, but it’s a pretty pervasive mentality out west. Deadset on proving people like young-me wrong are institutions like the Arts and Cultural Exchange (ACE – https://ice.org.au ) in Parramatta.
I first became aware of ACE by its former name ICE (Information & Cultural Exchange) through a band mate who facilitated workshops with Neurodivergent musicians – and it was quite eye-opening to find an organisation with the kind of facilities and programs that it does snuggled right in the heart of my West. I later had the pleasure of using one of its recording studios (for a later abandoned project, alas), and attending a night of First Nation punk bands performing in their space.
ACE has gone through several name changes and shifts in the methodology of its mission since its inception in 1984 – so much so that the arts and creativity were not strictly involved when it was founded as a van providing information to disadvantaged communities – but combating social injustice and embracing cultural diversity has always been at its core. Access to technology and information has also always been an important part of ACEs aims.
Today, ACE runs five program streams – First Nations, Youth Engagement, Multicultural Women, Neurodivergent Artists and Aged Care, and Screen Media – all of which produce interdisciplinary, intergenerational projects designed and run in collaboration with the communities in question. Many of these projects harken back to ACE’s origins when it aimed to provide information, but significantly expanded to include access to technology, skills training and creative, entrepreneurial experience. These projects are often groundbreaking in their approach and life-changing for the communities who participate. So my project idea is to profile individuals who have significantly interacted with ACE, and explore the ways the organisation has impacted their lives. Something that came up in my meeting with ACE was the feedback they’d received of how much love for the organisation and its programs there was amongst participants. It’d be great to tap into that love, and find out why it’s touched people so deeply for so long. These profiles can then hopefully be paired with ACE’s new website they’re designing to coincide with their recent rebrand.