During a period of unrelenting pressure on the arts sector, including the closure of the Newcastle Community Art Centre’s Parry Street home at the beginning of the year, it is great to see two artist-run exhibition and studio spaces open in recent weeks.
With limitless determination and tenacity, NCAC representatives Nathalie Engdahl and Wendy Peacock have searched for suitable premises to relocate this hub of creative activity. As a result of their lobbying, work is in progress converting the former plaster and decorator trades’ Block O on the Tighes Hill campus of TAFE into a multi-functional, community-focused art centre. When the renovations are complete there will be a gallery, at least three teaching studios, performance areas, workshop, office and leased studios for more than 20 artists.
Despite this being a work in progress, about a dozen tenants have already moved in, and painting and drawing classes are available most days of the week.
In addition to painters, printmakers and a photographic studio, ceramicist Kara Wood has relocated from Adamstown to set up a teaching area equipped with potters’ wheels and kilns. Kara and fellow NCAC tenant Holly Marlin are presenting Harmony, an exhibition of individual and collaborative ceramic and fibre works at Back to Back Gallery until May 21. The final stage of this development is due for completion by the end of July when the new Newcastle Art Space holds its first exhibition.
NAS has been Newcastle’s centre for young and emerging artists for the past 17 years, offering a crucial transitional opportunity for artists to progress to a fully professional level.
This project would not have been realised without the support of State Member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp, the senior management of TAFE NSW, private donors and Newcastle City Council which continues to provide materials and trades expertise to ensure the success of the development.
Five minutes away in Clyde Street, Hamilton North, is another studio-gallery complex, the Creator Incubator, which launched to a huge, enthusiastic crowd two weeks ago.
With the support of a small number of private patrons, highly regarded local sculptor Braddon Snape has converted the vast industrial space adjacent to the old Lampworks site into fully enclosed studios for painters, graphic artists and printmakers, along with open workshops where sculptors are able to work noisily and on a large scale.
The complex will accommodate about 15 artists and a dedicated gallery space, which is open to the public allows for a constantly changing exhibition of their work without the necessity of fixed time periods that govern most commercial and public galleries.
This inner north-west area of Newcastle is becoming a creative zone as warehouse and workshop spaces become available with the demise of manufacturing industries and city rentals spiral beyond reach of most artists.
The NCAC and Creator Incubator join a studio collective at Georgetown, where artists such as Sally Bourke (who is exhibiting at the Lock-Up) have been working for a number of years and the commercial gallery, Art Systems Wickham, which has been successfully exhibiting Newcastle artists among the old wool stores. It is speculated that a cultural component may be included in the development of these historically significant buildings.
In the city at C Studios, the connection between inland and the coast is explored in Double Vision, Land and Sea from widely exhibited Port Stephens painters, Kay McFarlane Smith and Peter Erson Smith. Both are members of the Royal Art Society and Kay’s work follows the traditions of early 20th century Australian landscape painters such as Hans Heysen and Elioth Gruner as she traces the flow of rivers from their inland source to the sea. Then Peter’s work takes over in the long tradition of maritime art where the port is the setting for his detailed studies of tugs, tankers and fishing boats. Until May 27.