Deb's the face behind D'faces

VISION: D'faces of Youth Arts creative director Deborah Hughes' vision is to create a vibrant and engaged artistic community. Deborah works toward this aspiration surrounded by a collage of sticky notes and mountains of paper.
VISION: D'faces of Youth Arts creative director Deborah Hughes' vision is to create a vibrant and engaged artistic community. Deborah works toward this aspiration surrounded by a collage of sticky notes and mountains of paper.

Art has always been at the forefront of Deborah Hughes' mind.

"It's about challenging yourself and challenging the people around you, but also, just about making beautiful things and making your world more interesting," Deborah said.

In 2013, Deborah took the position of creative director at D'faces of Youth Arts.

"Art teaches you to think differently and see things differently," she said.

"The arts make our environment more vibrant.

"That's one of our [D'faces] visions - to create a vibrant community and to encourage a lifelong and rewarding relationship with the arts."

Since taking the position as creative director, Deborah has been busy working towards that vision.

"We've been really focusing in the past 18 months on building D'faces up and enhancing our community profile," she said.

"It's really important to us, as an organisation, that we promote arts and culture in Whyalla.

"We want to support people who are doing fun and interesting things.

"I've been focusing on getting people through the door and raising our profile.

"That's my strength."

With a performing arts background, Deborah's passion is in fostering an engaged artistic community.

"I have a strong belief in the transformative power of art and culture," she said.

"It's a great medium to express yourself, but it's also just joyful."

While people may recognise Deborah as the face behind D'faces, she is still relatively new to Whyalla.

Deborah was born in New Zealand and grew up in the regional community of Te Kuiti.

In 2006, Deborah and her Australian-born partner relocated to Rosebery, Tasmania.

"We moved to a very small town on the west coast of Tasmania," she said.

"It was a town of 1032 people where it rained 300 days a year."

In 2010, Deborah, her partner, and their three children moved to Whyalla - swapping 300 days of rain for 300 days of sun.

Deborah described the lifestyle change as "infinitely better".

As creative director, Deborah's average day at work is far less glamorous than acting on stage.

A lot of her time is devoted to project management, writing grant applications and working through the logistics of funding.

"There are 12 different projects to manage at the same time - that's why I have mountains of paperwork around my office," she said.

"It's crazy messy.

"I write lots of lists.

"Sometimes it does my head in."

Underneath her piles of paperwork, Deborah has a vision for Whyalla's artistic community.

"It'd be really nice to have a place where people feel comfortable to come and connect," she said.

"That's our dream for the future; to have an enormous arts centre.

"A physical arts hub; that would be great, wouldn't it?"

Deborah said making art had a tendency to be an individual or even private activity.

However, Deborah strongly advocates for the social side of art.

"Visual arts particularly can be quite isolating," she said.

"There are all sorts of talented people out there in our community.

"I'd really like to see more interconnection between artists and organisations."

Deborah said she would like to see greater engagement with arts in Whyalla.

"It would be great if participation in the arts is valued in this community as much as sport," she said.

"I'm not bagging sport in any way, I like to play tennis and to keep fit; I used to be obsessed with netball, until my knees blew out.

"But also, the other side is important too, to be creative.

"That is the challenge, how do we get our community, as a whole, to place the same value on an artistic experience as much as going to the footy or the hockey?"

D'faces of Youth Arts became incorporated in 1994 and originally operated out of Middleback Theatre before relocating to its current address on Viscount Slim Avenue in 2006.

Deborah said D'faces of Youth Arts received public funding but relied on additional support to run its numerous programs.

"We're funded largely through Carclew Youth Arts," she said.

"OneSteel and Arrium pay for our workshop program.

"The council is also very supportive of us."