Katanning artist Wendy Hayward has been busy preparing a gallery space in the Jeert Mia Aboriginal Corporation building ahead of opening an exhibition of her work to the public in July. On display throughout the space are satchels and pillows featuring colourful prints and bold arrangements of native flowers. The large acrylic works hung on the freshly painted walls explore themes of family, connection and culture. “They’re about my life,” Hayward said of the paintings that feature hailstones, yarning circles, quandongs, cupcakes and stories. Hayward began painting after an unexpected experience at an Albany art gallery in 2017 led her to pick up the brush. “I just went along to look and they said ‘no, there’s no spectators here, here’s your canvas’,” she said. “After that, when I got back to Katanning I just started painting.” Hayward enjoys dividing her time between making wreaths, flower arrangements and painting at night. “When I start painting, the name will come afterwards,” she said. “Sometimes I might have an old piece of art and it’ll sit then I’ll bring it out again and work away until I’m happy with it.” Alongside creating art, Hayward provides cultural awareness training through Jeert Mia and runs a catering business specialising in bush tucker. While preparing the gallery, Hayward has also been working on a website as interest in Aboriginal art continues to grow. “If people are travelling . . and they’re planning their journey, they want to know what’s in town,” Hayward said. “The other day we were in the middle of painting and I hung a piece on the wall just to see the colours and two people from Melbourne knocked on the door. “As soon as they saw it they wanted it.” The Jeert Mia Gallery on Richardson Street will open to the public in July.