Creative Instigator – Natalie Wadwell

This weeks Creative Woman is west/south west Sydney based creative Natalie Wadwell. I recently attended TEDx Parramatta, an event that Natalie co-organised. It was an inspirational experience! One that made you come home wanting to create a better space in this world whether it be in your backyard, suburb, nation or globally.

What I love about Natalie’s story is that she has already crammed so much into her life. She is a testimony to the fact that if young people are given the right creative environment to flourish in, they will pour their creativity back into our community, weaving it through their work and social life.

I can’t wait to see what she does next, so make sure to “watch this space”!

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice

I am a creative instigator and writer. It is my belief that communities are not disengaged, they are looking for meaningful opportunities to participate – be that in civic life, the arts or otherwise. I like to work in the in-between spaces. Creating opportunities at the intersections of community, social change and post-suburbanisation.

My business sort of named itself – people always told me that I was a go-getter and took initiative, thus Wadwell Initiatives. I have worked with for-purpose, commercial and government entities to design solutions to engagement challenges. I love that it draws on my creative skill set as well as entrepreneurial and critical thinking. Starting out when I was 19 years old, I independently organising a HSC art exhibition, Stepping Up Macarthur with a range of strategic partners. We put the creativity of young people in the middle of Macarthur Square (a large South Western Sydney shopping centre) and attracted over 100,000 attendees each year. This quickly evolved into a travelling exhibition with an expanded music and visual arts program.

The need for sustainable independent arts spaces in South West Sydney drove my honours research ‘Cultural activation in West and South West Sydney.’ When I struggled to get investment for an independent art space (the forecasts were way beyond my means, even if I leveraged other funding sources), I teamed up with a friend to present a digital solution. State of the Arts Media was the only arts and culture guide dedicated to Western Sydney and Regional New South Wales. Since stepping away from the business, you can find my #wadwellwanders published on my blog. I have been fortunate enough to get several speaking and writing gigs for topics about the arts across Western Sydney and youth entrepreneurship

In 2017, I wrote an article for Artist Profile and more recently wrote the catalogue essay for the Adorned Collective for New Sacred at Mosman Art Gallery. Most recently, I co-organised TEDxParramatta to start providing individuals who live, work or Parramatta with the opportunity to share their great ideas that can help ‘shape tomorrow, together.’ I used to do a lot more drawing with fine tip pens and making polymer clay necklaces. Now that’s mostly for my branding aesthetic.


What is your greatest creative achievement?

My greatest creative achievement has been learning to adapt and transfer skill sets. From experiential learning and bringing partnerships together, to transferring entrepreneurial skills into roles with larger organisations. It’s not been without its challenges but, it is incredibly rewarding to see what experiments we can put in motion.

What is your first memory of being creative?

I have always been the creative one in the sporting family. My mother’s classroom is covered with drawings from primary school. I think I remember those by the product rather than the process though. I remember the experience of being a part of the school choir, dance groups and participating in two Wakakakirris. We’d have practice at lunch time in smaller ensembles before coming together as a large group in the hall. The parents got involved with costume and prop design and before we knew it we were performing on a large stage. The whole process was about community coming together and being creative storytellers – through movement, song and costumes – I loved it.

Who or what inspires you?

People. Without them our society is just bricks and mortar. No colour or creativity, no life injecting activity to make our spaces become playgrounds. They say that empowered women, empower women. It is of no surprise that my constant source of inspiration is the strong women in my life. From my mother and sisters, to my peers and colleagues, they all have wonderful stories and are generous humans. Ultimately, I am inspired by the communities that I aim to service. It is their stories, determination and creativity that are a constant source of inspiration.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

The compositions of Ludovico Einaudi form the soundtrack of my creative time. He is an Italian pianist and composer. Depending on what I need to do, if it is a writing piece or something more hands on, his compositions remove the blank canvas effect. It is something to connect my energy into and build off.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I turn to movement mediation. I will go for a walk, pull out my hula hoops and crank up the tunes. Finding a song that really helps me sit into my mood and body is important to break through the barriers. I am an over-thinker, so it is especially important to surrender to just feeling and moving. If necessary, I will take a pen to my journal and unpack what’s blocking me. However, I try to get it all out with movement mediation.

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Stop surviving and start thriving. I wrote about this on my blog after cycles of exhaustion that no amount of yoga, mindfulness or productivity tools could get me through. It is important to play the long game, rather than spending too much energy on short term fixes, which is why I stopped focusing on self-care and instead turned to self-preservation. This was particularly important when I was freelancing and cash flow was scary.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

My favourite colour is yellow, favourite book Oranges and Sunshine by Margaret Humphries, music changes with my mood, but a constant is Imagine Dragons and I love risotto! Favourite place in the world, Lauterbrunnen… or Chicago… ah this is hard. I feel like once I tick the Daintree Rainforest off my list it will jump towards the top.

If you want to keep up with what Natalie is up to visit the links below, and you might also want to take a look at her  TEDxYouth Sydney talk ‘Engaging Communities throughArt’.

Creative Instigator – Natalie Wadwell

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