A huge ocean separates Saint Mary's College of California from Australia, but cultural, athletic and educational connections have created a bridge between us.
The Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary's College, during the opening week of its fall 2007 exhibition "Dreaming in Color: Aboriginal Art from Balgo, Australia," hosted a reception on Sept. 12 honoring Australian student-athletes and those returning from studying Down Under.
The 45 paintings in the exhibition - on loan from the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia - come from the remote Aboriginal community of Balgo in the state of Western Australia. The contemporary works are adapted from traditional Aboriginal sand drawings and illustrate episodes of the Dreaming, the time of creation when powerful ancestral beings created the world and everything in it.
"In Balgo, people began painting in the 1970s and organized an art center to support their efforts in the 1980s," Margo Smith, Ph.D., exhibition curator and director of the Aboriginal Art Collection, said during the gallery opening on Sept. 9. "Paintings from Balgo are known for their distinctive bright palette and variable dotting techniques."
The international Lasallian community has been involved with the indigenous people of this remote desert region of Australia for more than two decades. The children and grandchildren of the Aboriginal artists featured in the Saint Mary's exhibit are being educated by the Christian Brothers at the Luurnpa School in Wirrimanu. The Catholic, bilingual school was created in 1983 at the request of the Aboriginal people. In honor of that, the Hearst Art Gallery is raising funds for the school through the auction of two Aboriginal dot paintings, and the sale of the exhibition pamphlet and merchandise.
Brother Dominic Berardelli, special assistant to Saint Mary's College Brother President Ronald Gallagher, visited the Luurnpa School in 1995. "It was an experience I'll never forget," he said, recalling the poor conditions of the community as well as the unique culture of the people. Brother Dominic said he was particularly impressed with the Brothers' commitment to the Luurnpa students and their respect for their nomadic traditions, especially that of Brother Leo Scollen, who spent 17 years there.
Saint Mary's College's ties to Australia began in 2001 when men's basketball coach Randy Bennett recruited Adam Caphorn from the Australian Institute of Sport. Daniel Kickert, the college's all-time leading scorer, followed and this year four players on the men's basketball team hail from Australia - junior Ben Allen from Melbourne, junior Carlin Hughes from Perth, freshman Patrick Mills from Canberra and junior Lucas Walker from Launceton.
Other Aussie student-athletes at Saint Mary's include senior Jessica Hoath from Coomera on the tennis team and freshman Louella Tomlinson from Melbourne, who plays basketball.
Spring 2008 will mark the third year that Saint Mary's College will send students to study abroad at Deakin University on the Melbourne and Geelong campuses, where they explore Australia's indigenous culture and pursue a variety of academic courses. The students, who study alongside Australian and other international students, also have an option to participate in a supervised internship program that immerses them in the Australian workplace and culture.
Saint Mary's College was honored on April 25 with a campus visit by Australian native Brother Gerard Rummery, FSC. Saint Mary's granted an honorary doctorate in educational leadership to Brother Gerard at the college's annual Convocation in honor of his Lasallian service across the world over the past 60 years. Saint Mary's President Brother Ronald praised Rummery as a man of "abundant faith and zeal" for inspiring the college community through his work with the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies and the Lasallian Leadership Institute.
By Debra Holtz, Office of College Communications
Photos by Gabrielle Diaz '11