Young artists of Rutherglen Part 1: Meet Mara O’Keeffe and Riley Welsh

Arts Rutherglen are thrilled to introduce and showcase 6 local, young artists from Rutherglen High School in the lead up to the 2022 Rutherglen Tastes of Art Prize.  

The Rutherglen Tastes of Art Prize  Youth Award is open to all young artists (Under 18). In 2022, with thanks to the Indigo Shire Council, we are offering 3 Youth Awards of $250 each.

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Di Kotzur, teacher and Art and Technology Learning Area Leader at Rutherglen High School, reminds us why art plays a crucial role in contemporary education. She talks about the current group of senior students at Rutherglen High School, who despite challenging circumstances over the last year, have produced some fabulous folios and artwork.


Curiosity… creative and critical thinking- the oxygen that makes all other subjects breathe

“Art in schools shouldn’t be sidelined… it should be right up in the front because I think art teaches you to deal with the world around you. It is the oxygen that makes all the other subjects breathe.”                                                                                                                                  ~Alan Parker – Filmmaker

I think that our role, as educators, is to promote originality and critical thinking. Art plays a crucial role  because it is about being innovative in an increasingly automated world.

I have been lucky enough to be a teacher at Rutherglen High School for a number of years and I am constantly impressed by the maturity of our students and the depth of their understanding of the world around them. This year has been a little different for everyone. This group of senior students have been remarkable, both personally and as a group, under very challenging circumstances. They have spent a large portion of the past two years (nearly 50%) at home, trying to work remotely and complete their Year 11 and 12 studies. To their credit, they have not only done that but also produced folios and artworks that are deeply personal and highly skilled. I look forward to seeing what this talented group does in the future.

Creativity is an active process. It involves making new and creative connections and responding to a problem. To get the most out of it, you have to participate and be actively involved. It is not a passive process. To do this we have to get the students excited about what they are doing. Experimentation, curiosity and motivation are key. We encourage them to ask questions, be curious and open, imaginative, make guesses, engage with the process and be willing to make mistakes.

Di Kotzur

Art & Technology Learning Area Leader

Rutherglen High School


Two young artists of Rutherglen

Mara O’Keeffe

Hi. My name is Mara and I moved to Rutherglen at the start of the year from Melbourne. In Art, I worked with some rather unorthodox materials to express my thoughts on some very current issues.


Stop. It’s a word. It’s a sign. It means no.Yet, why do so many not understand what ‘no’ means?
Why do so many sexual assault victims feel unheard? Why do they feel like their stop sign is ignored? If we work together, maybe those words can be heard. Sexual assault does not discriminate. That is why I have chosen to include the eyes of men, women and children. I deliberately selected models who have features from many nationalities. Their eyes and stories are burnt into the wood, forever marking the words that were not respected. The blank spaces represent those victims who are not alive today.




“UNSEEN PAIN – Addiction, Bipolar & Anxiety”

Self-care they said. We support your mental health they said. But what does that mean? How can one be empathetic and understanding about something that can’t actually be seen? It’s not there, it’s all going on inside your head. And the answer is simple; it’s hard. How could one possibly understand how it feels to have such drastic mood swings that your manic joy just clicks off with the flick of a switch? There’s no light, only the tumbling despair of inconsolable depression. What’s the difference between nerves and gut-wrenching anxiety and the wave of shaking panic attacks it can trigger? How is the deep dependence on an addiction like gaming or gambling confined within one simple description? 

If you haven’t already guessed, I’ve spent many nights awake thinking about these questions. At first I was going to create sculptures that visually represented various mental illnesses but would you like to know something? I couldn’t imagine them. I think it is nearly impossible to empathise with an illness you haven’t personally observed or haven’t experienced yourself. My intention with my somewhat hazardous sculptures was to depict a feeling: the raw skin-tearing symptoms many individuals deal with on a daily basis. My work may seem eerie and violent, but mental health is not all rose baths and candles. It’s the battle with the hollow creature who runs barbs of wire along your throat. 

It’s real, and it’s time






Riley Welsh

My name is Riley. I am a Year 11 studying Year 12 art. I have a keen interest in textiles and embroidery and I enjoy creating bags and embroidery patterns and scenes. I have always had an interest in feminism as my mother has always taught me about the inequalities that have plagued women for generations. 

My first art piece, ‘Time to do the Washing’ (image right) is a textiles piece sewn together using a sewing machine and fitted around a washing machine. I have tried to use a fleshy palette to imitate skin, and red thread to imitate blood for this piece. With this piece, I wanted to express my anger about female stereotypes such as doing the household chores (such as washing clothes, vacuuming, washing the dishes, etc.) This is a normal practice throughout my family and many others. I also wanted to dispel the stigma associated with periods. They are commonly washed out if a women “bleeds” through, with red thread. I would consider ‘Time to the Washing’ as having been made out of anger.


 My second art piece, ‘The Morrigan Bodice’ (image below) is another textiles piece that was hand sewn and made to fit myself.
The bodice was constructed with fabrics, feathers and scales. The bodice was heavily influenced by the Morrigan, who is a Celtic goddess and has the ability to turn into a raven/crow. She is the goddess of war, fertility and fate, as well as also being known as the triple goddess with her association to the moon and the phases of womanhood (maiden, mother, crone).

I wanted to represent the Morrigan through the scales for armour and war, feathers of the crow/raven and belladonna, a plant that is associated with her. ‘The Morrigan Bodice’ was intended to be a celebration of female power and female deities.




Look out for Young artists of Rutherglen Part 2: Meet Molly Wileman and Dharma Kotzur - December 12, 2021