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Elise Hopper

Elise attended Preston College of TAFE during 1985-1986 and completed Preparatory and T.O.P Art and Design. Her subjects included English, Drama, Media Studies, Photography, Art, Graphics, Screen-printing, Life Drawing, Sculpture, and Wood Sculpture.

Elise was a gifted student who was not engaged at secondary school, and drifted aimlessly. When she was offered a hairdressing apprenticeship at the age of 15, she left school and threw herself into her studies. Unfortunately, she soon developed severe contact dermatitis and had to give up her apprenticeship. This setback left her very distressed at age 17-18 with only a low-level secondary school pass, and no idea of what to do next. As a young child she exhibited a strong artistic talent, and in her parents’ house, was given a spare room with four large walls to use as a canvass.

Seizing on her passion for art as a way forward, she subsequently prepared an art folio at Diamond Valley Learning Centre which gained her admission to PCOT, where she completed years 11 and 12 Art and Design. When asked why she was so enthusiastic about her learning at PCOT, in stark contrast to her obvious lack of interest in secondary school, Elise said:

“I loved every minute of it. It was a very different world, and people were there because they wanted to be. It was really exciting to do an Art based course. Partly it was because I could choose subjects I loved, but also the students were such a wonderfully eccentric mix, some young and some mature age. The teachers were amazing; there wasn’t a single class I didn’t enjoy. I remember many of the teachers, but in particular, Libby Hughes, who took me for English and reignited my love of books and good writing. I’m an avid reader and I gobble books. Libby encouraged me by saying that I had the ability to do anything I wanted.”

There was plenty of excitement to be had for a young student of Art and Design. Elise interviewed Molly Meldrum at his home as part of a media studies assignment, and helped to co-ordinate the production of a mural painted by students in their free time, which was subsequently opened by then Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. Each student painted small keys and motifs in the mural that were special to them, and they were a boisterous and talented group.

Elise received a great reference from her art teacher, Anita Moynihan, who complimented her on her success in wrangling and motivating the mural crew. She has worked as an artist since leaving PCOT and exhibits her work every two years. Her style is constantly evolving and she paints intuitively using elements from dreams and stories in her work.

Elise says, “I would never have had the confidence or the skills to become an artist if I hadn’t had those wonderful two years at PCOT”

She has worked in retail management and attributes her skill in interacting with and managing staff to her early exposure to people of all ages and backgrounds at TAFE.She has now, after 25 years away from study, returned to TAFE to do a Business Studies course online, preparatory to starting her own business, but her painting remains a vital means of expression for her.


Interview by Vivien Achia