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35 Years of Megalo Print Studio + Gallery

Beatrice Smith

Canberra’s arts scene has swelled over the past few years.

Precincts like Braddon and NewActon now act as welcome homes for emerging artists, but we tend to forget the giants of the Canberra arts scene, the centres of culture that have helped artist’s careers soar beyond Canberra, who have energised and educated wave after wave of young artists and still stand strong today in a culture of shift and flux.

Megalo Print Studio and Gallery is Canberra’s original home of screen printing, a medium with the power to leap both cultural and socioeconomic divide – a true chameleon of artistic expression. This Saturday, Megalo are celebrating 35 years of printmaking, which will take the form of a celebration in their Kingston space, officiated by Chief Minister Andrew Barr from 11am.

“The Canberra Arts scene has always been strong,” says Ingeborg Hansen who has been with Megalo for five years, and is the current Artistic Director and CEO. “There have been big galleries that have had a lot of influence but Megalo actually started [at Ainslie Village] as a place where people could come and learn some skills – it was more of a community based [organisation].”

Image of the Little

Image of the Little Press Studio, Megalo Print Studio + Gallery.

“It started with Bitumen Gallery which has a lot to do with [Canberra Contemporary Art Space] and [Australian Girls Own Gallery] which was downstairs form Studio One [Print Workshop] in Kingston who showed lots of prints and art which were mostly by women,” explains Ingeborg. “I guess what’s happened more recently if that we’ve become a bit more cohesive in terms of our interactions with each other as organisations. The key arts organisations are starting to work more collaboratively, which has picked up over the last three years.”

Image courtesy of the Megalo Archives

Image courtesy of the Megalo Archives

Aside from peer collaboration, Megalo’s move to the Kingston Foreshore and an arts-positive government have helped.

“[Megalo] having moved here to Kingston, we’re close to the Glassworks so we’re able to run programs together whether they’re community programs or exhibition programs. The ACT Government have [also] been very good at helping promote the Arts organisations and helping them grow and realising their visions,” says Ingeborg.

As well as a celebration of print making, workshops and hands on activities at Megalo this Saturday, the staff and artists will be constructing a 35 metre screen print – the largest in the world – in commemoration of Megalo’s history.

“It’s a timeline. A hand cut stencil – we’ve been cutting that on the weekends – that will be a timeline of the 35 years of Megalo,” explains Ingeborg. “There are a few jumps in years of course, but all the little things – the places we’ve lived – [are there]. There’s a bit of humour in it. Mostly you’ll just have to come and see it!”

Megalo’s 35th birthday celebrations will culminate in a series of classes held in 2016 that will teach basic screen printing techniques to individuals. Coinciding with Homelessness, Reconciliation and Mental Health weeks, Megalo hopes to run these workshops on an annual basis. When I ask Ingeborn whether the aim is to get back to Megalo’s community roots she thinks for a moment.

“We’ve never really forgotten it,” she answers. “Throughout the years we’ve still run community programs and lots of classes, but we don’t want to forget the sectors of the community that don’t necessarily have a voice.”

'Land Rights'. Image via the Megalo Archives.

‘Land Rights’. Image via the Megalo Archives.

“The idea of being able to print posters is an ideal medium for [voicing concerns]. Since posters went digital they’re not being screen printed as often, but we want to [help that] make a comeback, we want to see the screen printed poster up on the street, on poles around the place. The basics of screen printing are simple – you can pick a lot up in a few days.” Tax deductible donations to this program can be made here.

Ingeborg hopes to utilise the combined skills of the Megalo print screen artisans to benefit all areas of the community.

“We’d just love to be able to help community groups have a voice and share some skills that our fantastic staff have here [at Megalo].”

'Escape to a Safer Place' from the Megalo Archives

‘Escape to a Safer Place’ from the Megalo Archives.

the essentials 

What: Megalo Print Studio + Gallery 35th Birthday Celebrations
Where: The Fitter’s Workshop, just off Wentworth Avenue on the Kingston Foreshore (next to the Old Bus Depot Markets, Megalo Gallery and The Canberra Glassworks)
When: 11am-2pm Saturday 12 December
Cost: Free, but tax deductible donations can be made towards Megalo’s community printing workshops here.

All images with the exception of the non-poster studio image from ‘Megalomania: 33 Years of Posters Made at Megalo Print Studio 190 – 2013. Studio image of Little Press Studio, Megalo Print Studio + Gallery. 

All images courtesy of Megalo


Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies. More about the Author

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