Merrill Findlay has engaged in community cultural development (CCD) project work and social innovation for more than twenty-five years on both sides of continental Australia, and in Melbourne, Victoria, where she established the small community futures organisation, Imagine The Future Inc (ITF) and the world’s first ecoversity.
Her current cultural interventions include
Merrill initiated a range of community cultural development and futures projects in Victoria in the 1990s through Imagine The Future Inc, the small project-based organised she established in Melbourne. >>
In the late 1990s she developed the innovative e-journal, Redreaming the plains, with New Media funding through the Australian Film Commission, and the support of RMIT University and the Victoria University >>
Her earliest formal CCD initiative, The Gascoyne Project, was undertaken way back in 1983 when she was Artist-in-Residence in the Gascoyne region of northwestern Western Australia. This pioneering residency was funded by the Western Australia Arts Council, the WA Department of the Northwest and Carnarvon Shire Council.
Lasting outcomes of this project included a new dark room for community photographers, an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Western Australia and a coffee-table book to commemorate the Shire’s 100th anniversary, Carnarvon: Reflections of a Country Town (Shire of Carnarvon, 1984, ISBN 0-9529109-0-3). The book included photographs and oral histories documenting the region’s diverse cultural heritage.
The Fairfax Walkabout Travel Guide recommended Reflections of a Country Town as follows:
Anyone needing more information on the town should read Merrill Findlay’s outstanding book Carnarvon: Reflections of a Country Town. Findlay was Artist-in-Residence in Carnarvon in 1983 and, as a professional photojournalist, she captured the spirit of the town in a way that few local histories do.
On her return to ‘the Eastern States’ in the mid-1880s Merrill participated in the emergence of the community arts networks in NSW and Victoria, conducted workshops for the Community Arts Resource Centre in Melbourne, and authored a working paper on community arts praxis for the Victorian Ministry for the Arts. The resulting monograph, Why Document? Working Paper No. 9, was published in book form in July 1986. In it Merrill investigated the arts practices of arts practitioners William Kelly, Geoff Hogg, Beatrice Sheehan, Thom the Street Poet, Neil Cameron and Les Gilbert. She also wrote a chapter about her own praxis as an artsworker. Hopefully this book will be available online sometime soon.