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Celebrating 100 years: Barbara's story

To showcase a 100 years of serving those who serve Australia, we’re talking with our customers to hear their special stories. Such as Barbara van der Linden—read how this acclaimed artist has built a thriving arts practice and a comfortable retirement with the help of CSC.

08 Aug 2022

Experimental artist, colourist and educator, Barbara van der Linden, is one of thousands of international artists who were invited to leave their ‘message-in-a-bottle to the future’ in a digital lunar exhibit.

“It’s true! It’s so true. I was very surprised when I was told what was happening. I didn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke. But it’s not a joke. It’s actually happening!”

Scheduled for lift off in 2023, it’s Barbara’s appearance in the documentary Put some colour in your life, hosted by the late Graeme Stevenson, that was captured—along with all 22 seasons of the art show—and stored on nickel-shielded memory cards to be sent to the art museum on the moon. 

“The documentary is about my art studio and shows how I paint. It’s a demonstration of a particular style I was using at the time. There are about 300 people from the show whose artworks are going to the moon. Elon Musk is building the rocket and NASA is sending it up. They’re building an art museum, a bit like a time capsule, in two different locations on the moon.”

The brainchild of enterprise creator Dr Samuel Peralta, this project is preserving contemporary creative arts for future generations. The series will join documentaries and short and full-length films in the Lunar Codex museum on the moon, and rocketed—via the Astrobotic Griffin—to deliver the NASA VIPER rover. It’s all part of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy mission, and is headed to the Lunar South Pole in November next year.

“Well, I will look at the moon and say, oh, my artwork's up there. There are a lot of images of my art, like what you'd find on my web page. And there are a lot of images from Faces of Canberra, a large project I did for the centenary of Canberra in 2013, where I produced a publication of 30 portraits I painted of Canberrans and their accompanying stories. We celebrated the launch with a ‘This is your life’ event and unveiled the portraits and shared the contributions these people have made to the community. A lot of that's gone up there as well.”

Born in Holland, Barbara migrated to Melbourne as a young girl, eventually settling in Canberra. She studied Fine Art at the Canberra School of Art, and later—with the help of a Commonwealth Scholarship—studied Graphic Design at the National School of Art at the East Sydney Technical College.

“It wasn't until we moved to Canberra when I was a teenager that my mother enrolled me in art school. I didn't know what I wanted to do. But she enrolled me and she also enrolled herself because she’d always wanted to go to art school. She became a sculptor and did quite well.”

As a graduate, Barbara was invited to teach Design and Drawing at the Canberra School of Art, following a coveted recommendation from the late John Coburn, a highly acclaimed Australian abstract painter.

“We didn't have many art teachers in Canberra in 1965. In art school, our teachers would fly out of Sydney and Melbourne to teach us. So John Coburn was one of my teachers. He designed the beautiful tapestries at the Sydney Opera House. He was a really lovely gentleman. His recommendation helped me get the teaching job.”

Barbara went on to teach art in Canberra and NSW high schools, and also worked as Graphic Designer and Corporate Image Coordinator in the public service from 1989 before becoming a full time artist in 2005. She credits her superannuation for helping her to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

“I kept my account with CSC throughout that time (1989–2005). We didn't have it in the beginning when I first started in '72. I don't think they had superannuation then, did they? Or was it because it wasn't required? I just remember I was paying the higher rate at the time. It was called contributions. And it forced me to save. It was good. I mean, I never missed it. The money goes out and you just learn to live with what you've got. Then when I retired, I paid my house off, which was great. The rest of it I took as an allocated pension, which is very helpful.”

Financial security, her thriving arts practice, and her artistic grandchildren, have all helped Barbara keep a sunny outlook during these past few years.

“I think CSC has done a great job in investing. I was able to access my super at age 55, which meant I could make use of it, and it's really made my life easier. I mean, I've been able to have a second life through that. You've got your young life when you're young and studying, and then you've got your work and family life, and then you've got your after work life, and that's when you're really doing what you want to do—what you've always wanted to do.

And having my arts practice; it's been really great in older age. It's been really good. Opportunities like going to the moon and doing this interview with you—little things keep happening. My experience hasn’t been like some people who say they disappear when they get older. And my grandchildren keep me busy—they make me laugh!”

And Barbara has some thoughts on what John Coburn might say today if he could see his former art student.

“I think if John Coburn called me now I'm sure he’d be telling me that we’re both going to the moon. And we'd both be having a drink to that!”

CSC customer, Barbara with her friend.

“In the future, people who go on holidays to the moon, or aliens who might want to know a little bit more about art, will visit the ‘art museum on the moon’. We would never have thought this was possible!”

Barbara van der Linden, CSC customer since 1989

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