Worn Out Worn Art


What happens when you mix young people, local artists, and heaps of recycled materials? Amazing wearable art! The Worn Out Worn Art (WOWA) program has been supported by the Mundaring Local Drug Action Group (LDAG) in Western Australia for the past 10 years.


How does it work?


Local artists engage with young people through artist residencies and workshops in participating schools, and through workshops held in various locations like the Mundaring Arts Centre, local galleries, and community halls. The program runs while school is in term as well as over school holidays. Workshops take a theme, like the harmful effects of drugs on the body or how alcohol and other drugs can affect people’s lives, and channels the theme into creating wearable art like headdresses, masks, armbands, and costumes of all sorts.

A wide variety of recycled materials are provided during these sessions, as well as bases like wire frames for making headdresses. Participants then use their creativity and imagination to transform the ‘junk’ into spectacular artwork. The recycled materials come from different places like REmida recycling, community members, local businesses, and the occasional wholesaler. Sometimes students collect their own materials.


At the end of the year, the young artists participate in a WOWA parade at the Darlington Arts Festival. Before they show off their creations, volunteers assist the performers with creative face paint, makeup and hairstyles to accent their wearable art. So many young people get involved that the 2015 WOWA parade featured 65 young artists.

Support from the festival is important not only because it gives the young people a platform and an audience to share their art with, but also because the stage, lights, and PA are already set up as part of the festival. Only the catwalk for the WOWA parade needs to be paid for by the program.

In addition to the annual Darlington Arts Festival performance, 9 outstanding costumes are displayed at the Local Drug Action Group’s (LDAG) conference that brings together LDAGs from across the state. Costumes and ‘mad hats’ created in Alice in Wonderland themed-workshops, which focused on environmental and social issues, were also displayed at a nearby shopping centre.

Who’s involved?

Worn Out Worn Art is run and supported by a network that includes:


Many different artists have engaged with the program over the years, although finding the right staff can be challenging. The artists need to have some educational skills and experience in addition to being artists. Often the program will set up an artist who has some experience teaching with an artist new to the program so that they can gain the skills that come from working directly with young people.

Volunteers are always needed, and they’re drawn from the pool of arts centre volunteers as well as the local volunteering centre. The volunteering centre connects them with people who might be looking for work or receiving Centrelink payments and are volunteering as a mutual obligation. Local tertiary institutions also get involved, with some of their graduates helping out by running programs and workshops.

Advice from WOWA

  • Community consultation is an absolute must.Work out with others what you’re trying to achieve, and how you can work together to get there.
  • Use creative ways to engage with young people, for example getting youth to explore the effects of drugs on the body by expressing it through art.
  • Don’t preach. The relationship with the kids comes first, and you’ve got to find out what’s going to resonate with them.
  • Partnerships and integration with other organisations is the key to longevity.

WOWA – awesome primary prevention

This arts program meets our best practice criteria for a great youth event because it’s:

  • Regular:It’s run every year.
  • Timed to reduce harms:WOWA runs over the school holidays when young people are looking for something to do.
  • Provides positive role modelling:The artists and volunteers are all locals.
  • Is ‘in-touch’ with the youth:WOWA gives young people a space for social commentary and self-expression through art.
  • Provides links to other services:the program is supported by Act-Belong-Commit, a mental health organisation.
  • It’s AOD free:Art and creativity is the focus.