Art Cabriolet brings art therapy to Newcastle in the form of a tractor

PAINT JOB: Derek Percival helps St Dominic's Centre students decorate a tractor he is driving from Newcastle to Melbourne. Picture: Simone De Peak
PAINT JOB: Derek Percival helps St Dominic's Centre students decorate a tractor he is driving from Newcastle to Melbourne. Picture: Simone De Peak

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.”

Students from St Dominic’s Centre painted the tractor once it arrived and also worked on a separate artwork to be kept.

Ms Liuzzi said “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.”