The Dax Centre – Studio Dax

The Dax Centre at the University of Melbourne is a leader in the use of art to raise awareness and reduce stigma towards mental health issues, and houses the Cunningham Dax Collection of over 16,000 artworks created by people with an experience of mental health issues and/or psychological trauma. The art includes works on paper, paintings, photographs, poems, textiles, sculpture, journals and digital media.

Simon Cosbie, Untitled (Yearbook Series) 2018
Exhibited in 2019 as part of STIGMA: dismantled, revealed

In 2018 the Dax Centre merged with SANE Australia. The Foundation has a lengthy association with SANE, which is a national charity helping Australians affected by complex mental issues lead a better life through support, research and advocacy.

The merger with SANE has provided the Dax Centre with the resources to develop an innovative range of exhibitions and educational programs that seek to engage, inform and encourage community connections and conversations about mental health. In 2019 the Foundation funded an exhibition entitled ‘STIGMA: dismantled, revealed’.

This free-entry exhibition displayed 66 pieces of artwork that were exclusively curated by seven emerging and contemporary artists with a lived experience of complex mental illness. The exhibition explored the stigma and stereotypes towards mental health issues that exist today and aimed to convey the self-stigma experienced by those living with mental health issues, as explored by the artists through their creations.

From Heart + Mind in 2020 was an exhibition of new works by eleven young, multidisciplinary artists exploring mental health, neuro-diversity, gender and identity. Drawing from personal experiences, the artists challenged ideas about trauma, isolation, stigma, inequality and sense of self. The Dax Centre continued to attract record visitor numbers to the gallery, and the post-exhibition evaluations confirmed the significant and on-going benefits of participation to artists and visitors alike.

From Heart + Mind

The Foundation has provided further funds to help establish Studio Dax during 2021. Studio Dax is a project designed to provide opportunities for artists with lived experience of complex mental illness to create in a collaborative and supportive environment, utilising the existing studio facilities at the Dax Centre. The studio will be staffed by professional art instructors, and will be able to cater for 9 artists at any time. Opportunities for solo and group exhibition are also to be available, both at the Dax Centre and in the wider community. Artists will contribute to the running costs of Studio Dax on a pay-as-you-go basis, with many participants expected to be able to use NDIS support packages, and the project is expected to become self-funding in its second year of operation.