Maryborough warehouse transformed to house Gatakers Creative Space for a burgeoning art scene
Once known for its many watering holes, opium dens and brothels, this Queensland town is transforming into a workspace for artists.
Observant visitors can still notice the signs of the wild and vibrant era when Maryborough Harbor provided an entry point into the state during the Gold Rush of the 1800s.
There are plenty of pubs in Maryborough – not just one on every corner, but several on every block.
Local artists have created street art pieces that tip their hats to some of the city’s most interesting Golden Age characters, including the Nuisance Inspector and a Polish beer baron.
But it’s the incredible historic buildings that really hint at the money that once flowed the streets.
After being neglected for years, Maryborough’s built environment is coming back to life as the Fraser Coast Regional Council (FCRC) transforms them into public spaces.
“People really want to get in touch with creativity in some form or another,” said Trevor Spohr, FCRC’s senior arts coordinator.
The most recent project has converted Netterfield and Palmer’s former warehouse into a space designed to inspire and encourage local artists, now named Gatakers Creative Space.
With a clay space, print room, digital installation capabilities, workshops and craftsmen’s shop, the building’s renovation was practical while celebrating a time when pioneers and sailors bought and loaded supplies on site.
“We had architects in Brisbane and they told us it was one of the most intact such warehouses in the country,” Mr Spohr said.
“Everyone wants to move here now.”
“Paradise” for artists
Monumental canvases are spread out on the wooden floor of the warehouse attic and a woman is leaning over them, splattering paint in large colorful spirals.
Maryborough artist Sue Mclean was the first to take advantage of Gatakers Creative Space, working on her Earth Beneath Our Feet series which celebrates microbes.
Ms. Mclean was delighted to have access to a large contemporary space in which to paint.
“It really is paradise,” she said.
“I’ve done residencies before and they’ve been in small, confined spaces.
Cast iron Roman columns, an ornate cedar staircase and a vaulted hoop pine ceiling – likely from when timber was still cut from World Heritage-listed K’gari Fraser Island – have all been preserved and highlighted in space.
But the biggest benefit of the renovation, according to Spohr, was that local artists now had a place to work and meet.
“That’s what this space is about,” he said.
“If you are a beginner, or an advanced artist, a professional, this space is open to anyone who wants to use it.”
Community space a ‘second home’
For Ms Mclean, access to the space motivated her to focus on her works and she pointed to a wider impact on regional artists in Queensland.
“High ceilings, huge walls to paint on, it’s a sense of place that inspires you to want to paint better,” she said.
“I think this space has many opportunities for everyone.”
Mr. Spohr hoped the space would become a second home for the local community.
But he also wanted its use to be directed by the inhabitants, allowing them to decide what happened inside the building.
“People will be able to be part of a bigger whole,” Spohr said.
“We are open to suggestions on the use of this space.”
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