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Stacey’s Aura: art for emergency

Stacey’s Aura: art for emergency

Stacey's Aura. Painting by Jessie Rigby

In late 2020, Jessie Rigby’s friend Stacey – a nurse in the emergency department at Sunshine Hospital – took her own life.

Jessie is a Macedon Ranges-based visual artist. She and Stacey had met in primary school and despite their careers taking them in different directions, every time they got together as adults it was like no time had passed at all. But Stacey never let on that she was struggling.

‘She was such a colourful and happy and bubbly person’, Jessie says. ‘She was always so interested and engaged. It was heartbreaking that she didn’t want to be here anymore.’

Stacey’s funeral confirmed for Jessie the impact she had had on so many people’s lives. In particular, seeing how many of her colleagues showed up in their scrubs, and noting their camaraderie and support for each other in their heartbreak, she wanted to do something.

‘I came home from Stacey’s funeral and felt very inspired to create her aura.’

In contrast to most of Jessie’s other work, which typically employs a softer, subtler palette, Stacey’s Aura is very bright and vibrant, just like Stacey was.

‘I’d never seen anything like it, says Beth Johnson, Jessie’s studio assistant. ‘It was completely different to any of Jessie’s artworks that I’d seen. And it was beautiful, and really moving.’

Jessie had been up into the night painting, and when Beth had arrived at the studio that morning and saw the painting, they both knew it had ‘to mean something more than just a picture on a wall’, Beth says. They asked themselves: How can we make this painting give back somehow to Stacey’s colleagues?’

Emergency self-care fundraiser

Jessie and Beth deliver hampers to Royal Melbourne Hospital

Jessie and Beth deliver hampers to Royal Melbourne Hospital

The two began brainstorming ideas. Eventually (and with a bit of help from a friend of Beth’s who also works in emergency) they came up with the idea to auction off the painting – and other works donated by fellow artists – to raise money for self-care hampers for nurses.

After reaching out to their creative communities, they ended up with around 19 artists who donated works. Some donated in memory of loved ones they had lost to suicide. Others in honour of family or friends who worked – and continue to work – on the frontlines. Despite unanticipated challenges and red tape, they raised almost $14,000 from the auction.

That money has so far bought three substantial hampers, which were delivered in November. One went to Stacey’s colleagues at Sunshine ED, and the other two went to the ED staff at the Alfred and Royal Melbourne hospitals. Each hamper included multiple:

  • vouchers for self-care treatments and home meal kits
  • endota spa gift cards
  • endota spa skin-care products
  • SALUS self-care products
  • bottles of Travail wine
  • baked treats from Mount Macedon kitchen
  • candles from H & Co Designs
  • iPantry gift boxes.

Jessie and Beth hand delivered the hampers themselves – with logistical help and introductions from ANMF (Vic Branch) – and although the process and procedures for doing so varied significantly from hospital to hospital, the feedback from recipients has been overwhelmingly positive, and deeply moving. Stacey had friends and colleagues beyond Sunshine Hospital, and her story clearly touched a chord.

With prints of Stacey’s Aura still for sale, Jessie and Beth plan to continue using all profits it generates to help Victoria’s frontline healthcare workers however they are able to. ‘Even if it’s just a posted envelope of lovely vouchers that can go to a department as a little thank you,’ Jessie says.