Artist Mandy Schoene Salter recalls another life under a socialist state

As a child growing up under the Stasi in the former German Democratic Republic, Mandy Schoene Salter never dreamed of a life in Australia getting paid to make her colourful art.

Jobs were dictated by the government as part of the zero unemployment policy and she "learned first-hand about what it means to be voiceless and the denial of basic human rights".

It's become a strong influence on her art.

"Back then you couldn't trust a lot of people, only close friends and family. The risk was too high that they worked for the Stasi."

But life had other plans for the now Katoomba artist. The family left for West Germany when she 12 in 1989. The Berlin Wall came down six months later as they struggled as refugees. She met up with the father she barely knew existed at age 18 on the other side of the wall. And in her twenties, fell in love with an Australian musician while studying in Cologne.

"My mum and dad were young adults when they were together. He had left with his family for the west and couldn't get back when she found out she was pregnant. I didn't know about him 'till I found these love letters in a cabinet. But Mum said after five years [of being separated] she told him they should get on with their lives."

Australia certainly "wasn't on the radar", but she took a chance with her own love life, traversing continents to be with her musician boyfriend. They married and later moved to the Mountains where they have raised three boys - another large inspiration for much of her colourful and life affirming work.

"I like to make a positive out of a negative situation. You make it easier for yourself," she said. "One day [my children] will understand the big picture [of my earlier life]."

Recently Blue Mountains Council chose Mrs Schoene Salter, 43, for a $2000 prize to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will help cover costs associated with her latest artwork at the Woodford Academy titled Remnants which is looking into the history and photos of residents of the academy.

"I feel really privileged to have had a look into their archives and learn about the history of the place and see these photos," the internationally renowned artist said.

She cannot paste up her work on the heritage Academy walls like wallpaper as she often does, but will instead hang it outside like laundry on clothing and sheets. Hopefully the Academy will open despite the pandemic, or the work will be displayed online or they might do both.

Mrs Schone Salter said she had to cancel planned charity street art work in the Philippines because of the pandemic, but is currently doing street art in Hurstville.

More than 60 people applied for the 'quick response' City of the Arts Trust grant program.and ten were selected. More than $111,000 of funding support was requested for the $20,000 funding pool which a council report said "provides tangible evidence of the need to support the regions artists and arts industries".

The other winners were:

  • WeiZen Ho Hereness: Signature Sounds
  • Rachel Peachey We went for a walk
  • Tracy Ponich Business Not Usual
  • Margaret Davis Lookout/Look Out!
  • Regina Saunders The rea_BOOTproject
  • Peter Kennard Relief Belief
  • Michel Streich Wild Mountain - Anthology of Blue Mountains Poems
  • Alan Schacher Animating the faux rock picnic shelters
  • James Emmanuel "Tomorrow" - Live single launch by JamaraOnMarz.

Mayor Mark Greenhill said: "we need to continue to work together to support artists and keep the arts alive in the Mountains."