The Macleay Valley Community Art Gallery in Gladstone is one of the few village galleries that have been able to sustain themselves. Through a mixture of good luck, a thriving arts scene and dedicated volunteers, the gallery has gone from strength to strength since it was established in 2005, attracting over 8000 visitors a year.
Crescent Head artists Scott and Robyn Jackson are two committee members who have contributed to the gallery’s continued success. Scott, who is now chairperson of the committee, joined the gallery committee as an artist representative soon after holding his (and the gallery’s) first solo exhibition. After the success of Scott’s exhibition, Barbara Huntington, who was then running the gallery, asked Scott to run a workshop on the practicalities of holding an exhibition. His simple guidelines are still on the gallery website for artists to refer to.
“We love giving back to the community that has supported us and highlighting the incredible work of other local artists,” Robyn says.
Scott agrees. “A lot of people don’t view themselves as ‘real’ artists,” he says. “We like to give them the opportunity to gain the confidence to exhibit their work.”
It’s this friendly and accessible ethos that sets the gallery apart from many traditional art galleries which, according to Robyn and Scott, can make it hard for artists to display their work.
“Artists love to exhibit here because the gallery doesn’t judge their work,” Scott says. “While many galleries have a curator, we allow the artist to select their own work to hang on the wall – often it’s their favourites that sell the fastest! Also, many galleries don’t consider digital photography ‘art’, so it can be tricky for photographers to hold exhibitions. We welcome all art forms.”
It’s not just artists who enjoy the relaxed vibe of the gallery – kids, families and visitors from all walks of life are warmly welcomed by dedicated volunteers. Artists are also invited to bring their materials in and paint at the gallery, creating additional interest.
“People feel comfortable coming into the gallery because it’s not intimidating,” Robyn says “At my exhibitions, I like to be there with all my paints to show people the process of painting on silk. Sometimes I let kids try it, which they love! Scott also brings his materials in because people really enjoy seeing how he works.”
The Macleay Valley Community Art Gallery committee is made up of a team of artists and art-lovers who bring together the skills, passion and dedication needed to make the council-owned gallery a success.
“Each person contributes a different skill set, so we couldn’t really do without anyone,” Scott says. “We also each bring our own network of family, friends and fans of our art to the gallery. Often people don’t realise what it takes to keep something like this running; if we didn’t have this committee and our incredible volunteers who sit the gallery, we’d have limited opportunities to display our art in the Macleay Valley.