Jody Robinson was one of a kind.
The proud mother of Quinn, she was also an artist and art teacher who inspired her students with her passion, her talent, and the sheer force of her personality.
She began her career as an art teacher at Lake Macquarie High School and was head of creative and performing arts at Lake Munmorah High School. She lectured at the University of Newcastle and started teaching at Newcastle High in 2014.
Jody was loved by many, and loved many. She helped people and opened her heart to them. She was more than a mentor to her students. She went above and beyond to support and encourage them. In many instances, she became a firm friend.
Jody was not just Quinn's mother. She was also his best friend.
It was cancer that cruelly slowed this remarkable and effervescent woman down. It first reared its ugly head in 2016 when she was diagnosed with inoperable stage two breast cancer.
True to form, she bounced back quickly from the shock and set about turning a negative into a positive. With Quinn by her side, Jody organised an art exhibition - Two Words, One Finger - at The Edwards in Newcastle West to raise awareness of cancer as well as vital funds to aid in her treatment.
She was never going to go down without a fight.
"I just thought f- - - it, this thing can own me or I can own it, and the only way to own it was to own who I told and how I told it," Jody told Weekender in 2016.
"I want the honesty, and I want the word cancer used."
Jody lost her battle with cancer on April 29, 2020. She was 49.
'Jody lived and breathed art'
Carol Robinson, Jody's mother
"Jody came into the world six weeks early on 19/11/1970. She was a delightful baby - everyone was drawn to her. A very interesting small child. Always a sponge for information. She loved to draw and paint and was always creative. She was not able to do sport because of her bad eyesight, and wore glasses from 16 months. Her eyesight got worse every year. When she was nine she went to ballet classes in Charlestown. She loved it and continued until after her HSC. Jody lived and breathed art. It was her passion. She was always ready to help others and her many students, who I am sure were touched by her passion. She always had ideas and if you were brave, you would go on the ride with her. She never stopped having ideas."
'Her number one love was Quinn'
Quinn's father, Mark, remained in awe of Jody from the day they met until the day she died.
"We met at The Brewery in February 1992. I was 20 years old and had been skydiving earlier that day. I was with a group of friends and she captivated me immediately. This woman was someone I wanted to know. I was a young man but she carried a boldness that I felt magnetically connected to.
"I admired her tenacity. She was indignant in her support of local artists. She lived her beliefs and her number one love was Quinn. He was her life's work. Jody lived and breathed art. She was the epitome of a no-bullshit art creator. She spent so much to give back to artists over 25-plus years."
Quinn and Mark have set up a GoFundMe campaign in partnership with the Newcastle Art School. They want to continue her work, and to support emerging artists in Jody's name.
"We haven't landed on a final decision yet, but it'll either take the form of an annual prize, a mentorship program where emerging artists will work alongside an established artist, or a scholarship. It depends on how much money is raised. The main emphasis of whatever it is will to continue to support emerging artists in the region in whatever way we can."
'An innovator, advocate and passionate arts educator'
"Jody was my lecturer at university and then my mentor as the head teacher of our faculty. We worked together for many years and became close friends. The first class I had with her, Jody immediately gained my respect and admiration. There was a group of teaching students that always came in late, sat up the back, had a chat and looked at their phones. In the first few minutes she had noticed what was happening and tore shreds off of them for being so disrespectful.
"Jody told them if they didn't want to engage in what she had prepared for them then they should get out. As a lecturer Jody was a fantastic storyteller and would always have current examples of her students' work to share with us. I owe Jody so much and every day I am reminded of the things she shared with me and taught me during the time we spent together. The quality I admired the most about Jody was her confidence. She had this unflappable way of dealing with things that meant she would just think up an amazing project or exhibition, and people trusted her to get it done.
"Jody was always an advocate for creativity and innovation. She loved new artists who challenged people to question their beliefs, to play around with or experiment with materials, or repurpose old ideas and push the boundaries. Artists and creative people are the pathfinders to everything around us that is new and exciting; now more than ever we need to keep encouraging young people to pursue a career in the creative arts. There are dozens of teachers across the country who are delivering the highest quality creative arts pedagogy thanks to Jody. You would be hard pressed to find another teacher in this state that lifted up the standard of expectations and refinement, in particular for visual arts education. She was an innovator, advocate and passionate arts educator."
'It's what Mum would have wanted'
"I've set up this GoFundMe campaign to raise money to leave an ongoing legacy for my Mum. Anyone who knew or knew of her would be familiar with her lifelong passion for the visual arts.
"As an art educator for over 25 years, Jody was a mentor, friend and inspiration to so many emerging artists. Since she passed away, we've been thinking of ways to let her legacy live on.
"The fine details are still being worked out, however all funds raised through this campaign will go to support emerging artists in the Newcastle area through an award, scholarship and/or mentorship program in association with Newcastle Art Space. It's precisely what Mum would have wanted and I feel proud to kick it off. Whether you can donate $1, $10 or more, every dollar will directly support local artists and allow Jody's gift to continue for years to come.
"Thank you for all of your kind words, support and love. Please continue to recall the stories from Jody's life as they are constant reminders that will keep her memory alive."