Oz blog

Bermagui is a small town (population 1500) on the south coast…that is, south of Sydney, Australia.  Seven hours south of Sydney, eight hours north of Melbourne, three hours east of Canberra. It is reasonably remote (it’s my family’s home). There is art. Surprisingly there is a small art community that is fighting to be thriving.

One of the places I have visited is Narek Galleries. The building was originally a church built in 1899 (that is old for Australian history) and is now a gallery that supports and displays established and emerging artists. Karen O’Cleary, the owner and curator, moved to the area, already established in the gallery world, with connections and an established clientele. She wanted to prove you can run a high quality gallery in a remote area.
                                         
She bought the space saying you need to own your space if you’re going to make it as a gallery/ studio. Also, the road was about to be paved- travelling to the area was made easier. Tourists from Melbourne and Sydney were starting to make the trek. There was a group of artists practicing in the area. Reasons, she believed, that would support the venture.
Like all small towns keeping talent in the area is a problem. People typically are heading off into the wild blue yonder in search of opportunity. Karen, along with five or six interested art entrepreneurs got together and wanted to do something to lift the game of arts in the area- they created created the Living Artist Award.
The Living Artist Scholarship was set up to provide on going support for talented artists from the Far South Coast. The major objective of Living Artist is to provide opportunities for visual artists to develop excellence in their practices by providing mentorship, education, and financial and marketing support in a bid to retain them in the region whilst they work towards supporting themselves from their own art practice!
Approximately $30,000 is raised in the local community every two years. This is not done with grants or government assistance- it is purely with the assistance of other artists, donors, sponsors and volunteers.
The artist has 12-18 months of assistance and then has an ‘outcome’ event or show.
The artists who have received the award are ceramicist Poppy Benton, print maker Tanja Riese and painter Matt Jones.

Poppy Benton
Matt Jones
Tanja Reise
I’m inspired by the art community creating their own opportunities- worldwide.

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