Words by Jessica Gadd Images Mike Emmett
Turn off the Princes Highway at Maffra or Stratford and you are less than 20 minutes’ drive from a town you have probably never been to, or maybe even heard of.
Briagolong is well known to artists, though, because it’s a place where many of them have found inspiration, solitude and support.
For nearly 20 years local artists in Briagolong have worked together and exhibited together, even created a gallery together: the Briagolong Art Gallery. Initially housed in a tiny old former bank building, these days it’s flourishing in a repurposed mechanic’s garage.
And now many Briagolong artists collectively welcome the public into their studios for the Open Studios Briagolong Stratford.
If you were to drive the Open Studio trail without stopping, it would take about 20 minutes, explains local artist, Ali Fullard.
Not that you would, of course – because there are 13 studios to explore, offering visitors the chance to see and purchase high-quality artworks of many styles and genres – ceramics, printmaking, sculpture, painting, jewellery, furniture-making and even blacksmithing.
This is a chance for the public to talk to artists in their own environment, hear the stories behind the works, see demonstrations of the art being produced – and to obtain an original artwork at a wholesale price, with no commission to a gallery.
‘This is a chance for the public to talk to artists in their own environment, hear the stories behind the works, see demonstrations of the art being produced – and to obtain an original artwork at a wholesale price, with no commission to a gallery,’ Ali says.
You might even be tempted to try a little creating yourself. Printmaker Gillian Kline’s Briagolong studio is large and well-equipped enough to accommodate workshops, which it does, on a regular basis – some run by Gillian herself, and others by visiting ‘masters’ of the art form.
‘Printmaking is so easy to learn, it’s so accessible,’ Gillian says. ‘It’s an ancient skill that’s still being practised today. And I love to demystify the process. When people come to the studio they see how easy it is, they realise that they could do it too. Even a beginner can go home from their first printmaking workshop having created something they love.’
Both Ali and Gillian appreciate the close-knit camaraderie of the local arts community – particularly given that creating art can tend to be a solitary pursuit.
‘It’s true that artists tend to work in isolation – and yet, art is popular,’ Ali says. She suggests that Open Studios is the perfect solution to this conundrum.
‘Open Studios benefit the wider and local community in the form of increased bonding and cultural diversity, they build stronger connections between local arts communities, and they raise the profile of artists and the arts, which is good for art generally,’ Ali says.
For a peek at the artworks available and studios that will be open, see the Open Studio Briagolong Stratford Facebook page.
What: Open Studios
Where: Briagolong Stratford
When: 18–19 November, 2017
More information: http://openstudiosbriagolongstratford.com