It began as a running joke between two mates but as a Massey Fergusson TE20 tractor started its 10-day journey from Newcastle to Melbourne on Monday, Derek Percival and James Glover were not the only ones laughing.
Students from St Dominic’s Centre, Mayfield screamed with joy as “a crazy adventure” for the two Melburnians was launched in Newcastle.
The journey is in support of Art Cabriolet, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to bring joy and happiness to children and adolescents experiencing trauma through art therapy.
“About six years ago, James and I saw a ride-on lawnmower driving down the road and said as a joke, ‘Imagine driving that to Sydney’,” Mr Percival said.
“It was a running joke for years and years. Then about three years ago I thought, we’re sick of talking about it, so we bought a tractor.
“Then we did some work with the Art Cab through my business … and I loved the work that I did and I told [Art Cabriolet founder] Caroline [Liuzzi] that we were driving a tractor from Sydney to Melbourne and asked if she wanted to be involved.”
Mr Percival works in corporate training and spends most of his time in an office environment and was relishing the time to be outside and in the community.
Students from St Dominic’s Centre painted the tractor once it arrived and also worked on a separate artwork to be kept.
The Art Cabriolet was started by Ms Liuzzi nine years ago in the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires.
“We’re an organisation that brings art therapy to other organisations that have children who are in challenging circumstances or facing trauma,” Ms Liuzzi said.
“We work with about 2000 kids a year … we work a lot with kids who are in wheelchairs and we track their wheels on canvases so there’s no impossibility with us; we believe every child is a learner and there’s no such thing as ‘No’ with us.
“Art therapy lets them work progressively through their issues without words.”
The tractor’s second visit was John Hunter Children’s Hospital on Monday. In all there will be 21 stops along the way.
“The idea was let’s put a little bit of fun into bringing awareness about what art therapy is, and a little bit of fun back into fundraising, because we’re one of 60,000 organisations across Australia putting up our hand saying, ‘We’re really worthy’, as is every single one,” Ms Liuzzi said.
“We just thought we’d do something a little bit differently and do it with art and joy and happiness.
“The goal is by the time it gets back to Victoria, it’s morphed into a piece of art, and the goal is to sell that and that will help fund us as well.”