Studio Spaces

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Rachel Piercy, Director of the Manning Regional Art Gallery, and Jane Hosking, Assistant Director, explain the concept of “Studio Spaces” – an exhibition that’s resulted from a partnership between the gallery and Fairfax Media, and takes you into the individual studios of 16 local artists …

How was the idea of Studio Spaces of the Mid North Coast initiated – what was the original spark behind the concept?

The 30th anniversary of the art gallery seemed like the perfect opportunity to delve into the studio spaces of local artists. We’ve long wanted to open this realm to the public and give people the chance to see how professional artists in the region live and work. Their studio spaces are artworks in themselves, each of which embodies the core values of the artist who works there, as well as their own unique personal style.

For example, Steve Williams has built his own wood-fire kiln on a 52-hectare property at Dolly’s Flat, with a distinctly Australian character, that merges seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.

Another highlight is “the Armadillo” of our very own Jane Hosking, a space made largely from upcycled materials, with a distinctive curved roof, built by her partner, Tim Jones.

Studio Spaces of the Mid North Coast has been a partnership between Fairfax Media and the Manning Regional Art Gallery. What role did these organisations play to achieve the end result?

About a year ago, the gallery team selected 16 local artists to take part in the show. Journalist Lauren Green and photographer Scott Calvin of the Manning River Times visited each artist in their studio space and documented the visit with photography, video and interviews, which have been published though Fairfax media and played on social media since May. We know Lauren and Scott have had a fantastic insight into the intimate workings of these artists in their studios.

Given the gallery is now celebrating its 30th anniversary, there must have been some significant changes over this time. What do you feel have been some of the gallery’s standout achievements/developments?

We’ve come a long way, from humble beginnings. When we started in 1988, we were a subdivision of the Manning Entertainment Centre (MEC), with just two small rooms in the foyer. It took ten years to secure our current premises: a red-brick Federation bungalow, originally built to house the principal of Taree Public School in 1907.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve grown and developed in all kinds of ways. We’ve
taken care to preserve the heritage features of the building, including the façade, stone fireplaces and original timber joinery, while adding a new exhibition wing, a small workshop and an outdoor function area. We’ve also built on the site’s legacy, offering educational programs for young and old, in everything from book-binding to basket-weaving, including partnerships with North Coast TAFE and schools.

We’re especially proud of the Aboriginal Art Garden out the front, which was developed by Aboriginal designers, all women, and features important bush foods and cultural use plants, locally sourced, with advice and assistance from TIDE. The garden was planted in 2015, as part of the Open Door Project and has now grown in beautifully, producing flowers, foliage and fruit for the enjoyment of all.

The team is now busy planning the future of this vibrant and meaningful community space. We hope to see it continue to grow exponentially, to match community expectations, with considered planning and external funding.

The Studio Spaces exhibition will be held from 4th April – 13th May, the culmination of a year’s work. What will exhibition visitors be able to view/experience?

This is set to be an immersive, multidimensional exhibition, featuring a still image of each artist in their studio, a selection of the work they produce there, and the written story of each space. The videos and stories will continue throughout the exhibition.

What likelihood is there of Studio Spaces – or a similar project – being organised again in future years by the gallery?

The gallery is keen to hold further shows exploring artists and their studios in future years. We see this exhibition as the first in a series.

Thanks Rachel and Jane.

Photos courtesy of Scott Calvin, Manning River Times.

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