A Journey of Art, Resilience and Community

It has been two decades since Elysha Rei, a proud graduate of Sunshine Coast Grammar School, embarked on a journey filled with creativity, resilience, and community engagement. Elysha shared with us her remarkable path from post-high school work to a flourishing career in arts management and public service.

After a brief hiatus following high school, Elysha pursued her passion for the arts by enrolling in a Bachelor of Visual Arts program at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba. Upon graduating, her adventurous spirit led them to Japan, where they spent eight months teaching English before returning to Australia to welcome her first child.

Subsequently, she moved back to Toowoomba and, alongside a friend from art school, founded an art space that featured four galleries and a range of programs. This venture thrived for three years, fostering connections with the community and realising her creative dreams Elysha then transitioned to managing Dogwood Crossing, a premier Arts and Cultural facility in Miles, Western Queensland, gaining valuable experience in the world of public art galleries.

Nearly two years later, her journey took an international turn when she relocated to Thailand, her childhood home, to pursue an MBA while establishing an artist residency in rural Thailand named Sam Rit Residency. This initiative opened doors for artists from around the globe to experience rural Thai life while focusing on their artistic practices.

Returning to Australia for her child’s education, Elysha joined the team at Flying Arts Alliance, a non-profit arts organization that connects regional and rural communities with arts opportunities. Her career continued to evolve when she was appointed as the inaugural Public Programs Officer at Queensland State Archives, where she managed events, exhibitions, projects, tours, and lectures centred around the value of archival records.

In addition to their arts management career, Elysha is a professional artist, with exhibitions spanning international borders and artist residencies in Australia, Japan, and Canada. She has also contributed to public artworks for Brisbane City Council and painted murals in Toowoomba and Warwick.

Currently, Elysha has been with Queensland State Archives for nearly six years, with a focus on the First Nations space and truth-telling through archival records. She is also in the second year of her part-time PhD program, researching how Japanese Australian identity can be archived through contemporary paper-cutting practice, connecting her family heritage and artistic career.

Notably, Elysha is deeply involved in community service through the Sam Rit Residency project, which has brought economic opportunities to a rural Thai village. The initiative has been a rewarding endeavour, creating sustainable employment opportunities for the local community.

When asked what she is most proud of, Elysha mentioned her children—a 14-year-old rising volleyball star and a 2-year-old who brings immense joy to her life. Additionally, she shares her triumphant journey of beating breast cancer and raising awareness about the importance of early detection, participating in the Mater fun runs.

For Elysha, her mother stands as a profound source of inspiration. During her battle with cancer, her mother became her caregiver, sacrificing her job and personal life for eight months to provide unwavering support.

Reflecting on their time at Sunshine Coast Grammar School, Elysha fondly remembers the lush environment that contrasted with their previous life in Bangkok. She cherishes the memories of learning valuable life lessons from her teachers and the camaraderie with friends during lunch breaks.

As Elysha’s journey continues to unfold, it serves as a testament to the power of passion, resilience, and community engagement. They are a shining example of how one individual can make a positive impact on the world through their dedication and determination.

Elysha’s story is a reminder to us all that no matter where life takes us after graduation, the lessons and experiences gained in school can shape a path to success and fulfilment.