Evelyn Healy was born Evelyn Shaw into a middle class family in Ballarat in 1912.
She was academically successful in school and was persuaded by her family to study Law but rebelled after a short time, deciding art was her goal.
She studied art at the Ballarat School of Mines (like TAFE) in 1930, having a couple of successful art and pottery exhibitions in 1935 and joined the Victorian Art Society in Melbourne. This was also a 'life direction change', where her middle class views on life were politically changed forever by the new ideals learnt from her new artist compatriots.
Evelyn joined the Artists branch of the Communist Party in 1937 and immediately became involved in demonstrations and rallies against Mussolini and Franco's attacks on the democratically elected Spanish Government. Due to this, she married an Australian volunteer who fought as an International Brigadier, Charles Walters, and had her only child, Max Walters.
Considered bourgeois from her upbringing, she did not work in areas to fit her education but on the factory floor in production line work with other mass union type workers.
She was expelled from the Communist Party in 1964 on her questioning the revelations of Nikita Khrushchev about Stalin's atrocities and also the belief of hard line Communists that 'artists, unlike other workers did not fit naturally into the Party'!! She fought for re-admittance and this happened at the final Communist Party Congress in 1991.
Under 'freedom of information' it was discovered recently (but not surprisingly), that ASIO had a file on her covering her time in the Communist Party
Evelyn was always heavily involved in any activity promoting social justice such as
Vietnam War demonstrations, Aboriginal Rights, Atomic testing at Woomera and the Pacific, The Cold War, The Arms Race and PND. She supported the UN (of which she is a Life Member).
Evelyn was instrumental in forming the original local Art Society in Fairfield called CADAS. She fought for Nuclear Free Zones for Fairfield and Liverpool Councils and was instrumental in forming the District Associations for P&C's, as well as being active at St Johns Park P&C. Evelyn stood unsuccessfully as a councillor for Fairfield Council.
Evelyn was instrumental in rediscovering the Eureka Flag in the early forties, having remembered it was at the Ballarat School of Mines when she was studying art. The 'Flag' presentation opening was unveiled by Gough Whitlam at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ballarat in 1973, with a letter to Evelyn from her mother framed alongside the 'Flag'. The Ballarat Council presented Evelyn with a beautiful plaque to honour her efforts with the 'Flag' in 1998. A continuous video showing at the Eureka Stockade Museum in Ballarat features Evelyn talking about the 'Flag' story quite extensively.
Evelyn has won numerous awards for her paintings over the years. There could have been many more if political and social justice activities had not consumed her mind and body.
In the 50's and 60's, Evelyn made a living out of doing 'quick sketch' portraits at a major Sydney department store during the school holidays and also as a 'fundraiser' for school fetes.
She won the prestigious Waratah Festival Art Prize in 1972 (now Festival of Sydney Art Prize) and the Festival of Liverpool Art Prize in 1978. She was one of the artists (including Rod Shaw, Roy Dalgarno, James Cant and Hal Missingham) that painted the 'Wharfies Mural' now exhibited at the Maritime Museum in Sydney. Evelyn actually painted the portrait in the mural depicting the wharfies leader, Jim Healy (no relation). She was a friend of Noel Counihan, whom she admired, but like herself, both were ignored by officialdom for decades because of his politics.
Evelyn wrote a book about her life, art and politics, titled Artist of the Left, which she published in 1993.
Evelyn went to University and at 62 years of age, received her degree as an Art teacher in the NSW Deptment of Education and taught art at Cabramatta High and other schools for seven years before retiring.
Evelyn was honoured by Fairfield Council in 2003 in a programme called "Living Library Hearing the Past' where she was requested to tell her life story on tape in 2003 with 80 other prominent residents.
Additionally Fairfield Council has also chosen her and only five other residents (including Gough Whitlam) who have greatly contributed to the community in their 'Faces of Fairfield'. A plaque about Evelyn and her achievements will be permanently displayed on a post outside the Fairfield School of Arts in 2008.
Apart from the current 'From the Attic' exhibition which exhibits previous artwork and sketches, her last two paintings were large scenes of 'inside' and 'outside' Villawood Detention Centre, painted in 2004, which she donated to the Social Justice Committee of the Nursing Home complex where she resided until her passing away on June 28 2009.