At the moment it’s a barren piece of land in a town centre with a…
One of my favourite things about Canberra is the dynamic art scene. With at least one or two shows opening each week, the scene is active and offers work to interest the whole realm of visitors: from collectors, to students, art aficionados, and the general public.
Most people would be familiar with the big public institutions – the National Gallery, Library, Museum, Archives, and Portrait Gallery all offer extensive exhibition calendars and public programs. But what about the smaller spaces? The locally run little gems?
The following is not an exhaustive list, but will offer you a hint of what is out there to fill an empty Saturday afternoon in a slightly different way. It is always worth signing on to the mailing lists of these galleries, to ensure you know when exhibitions are opening (which almost always means some wine and cheese with your art) and closing, as well as upcoming events like artists’ talks.
These are the ones where the art is for sale, and works go for anything from the price of dinner at eightysix to a mortgage payment on a Mugga Way estate. If you are thinking of starting a collection of your own, the directors of these galleries will be more than willing to help you. Pick up a small photograph, a ceramic, or work on paper for a few hundred, or splurge on a have-to-have-it painting or sculpture for a few thousand.
Just up the road from the Mint in Deakin, this lovely art space has been operating since 1975 and considers itself the “the largest privately-owned gallery in Canberra”.
Beaver offers Canberrans a chance to see works by some of Australia’s best and most well recognised contemporary artists. A number of the gallery’s regular exhibitors are locally based. Owned and run by Martin and Susie Beaver, it also boasts a gallery shop with a range of objects d’art, and an inhouse licensed café, The Palette, which serves morning and afternoon tea as well as lunch.
Community not-for-profit and artist-run initiatives
These spaces are dedicated to exhibiting local and regional artists, and to supporting the art community of the city. Often run by a combination of a skeleton staff and a cast of friendly volunteers, it is worth finding out what’s on and when and getting along to support the creative industries of the ACT.
M16 is an artist-run initiative, featuring studios and galleries. Housed in Fyshwick for its first 25 years, M16 relocated to the Blaxland Centre , the old Griffith Library, in 2010.
Like M16, Australian National Capital Artists is a combined studio and gallery facility, located in Rosevear Place Dickson. ANCA Gallery has operated since 1992 with the support of Australian National Capital Artists Inc. and the ACT Government.
This hidden gem is located in a converted 1920s homestead on the north-western outskirts of Canberra. The space has been housing arts activities since the 1970s, with the Strathnairn Arts Association taking charge in the early 1990s. If you’ve never taken the drive out past the Magpies Golf Club on Stockdill Drive, Holt, it is definitely worth your time. Opening hours are very limited, but if you can make it you will be delighted to find a little space out of time just outside the city. The current show, Two views – an interpretation of Australian native landscape, flora and fauna, runs until 4 August, and there is a meet the artist event on this Sunday 28 July from 2.30pm.
Offering a range of fantastic courses in printmaking, as well as an active exhibition program and artist studios, Megalo is a truly special feature of the Canberra art scene. The organisation has recently relocated to 21 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston from its former home in Watson. Semester 2 courses are enrolling now, so get along to learn the basics of screen print, woodcut, etching and more.
Home to the emerging and experimental artists of the region, this is the place to be challenged, intrigued, perplexed and, perhaps, impressed. Their website describes CCAS “one of a national network of contemporary arts organisations (CAOs) dedicated to the generation, presentation and promotion of innovative contemporary visual arts practice in Australia”. CCAS was founded in 1987. The current show at Gorman House, First Light, features work from some fantastic Indigenous artists and is a must see.
Located at the Manuka Arts Centre, between Manuka Oval and the Manuka Pool, photoaccess is an ‘incorporated community organisation’ that offers courses and exhibition opportunities to local photographers from beginners to professionals. The Huw Davies Gallery is the only community gallery space in the ACT dedicated to the photo based arts. photoaccess members are given multiple opportunities to show their work at group shows each year.