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.

Built during the Gold Rush of the 1800s, Gatakers Creative Space treated those arriving at the Port of Maryborough. (Provided: Gatakers Creative Space)

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.

A historic building in Maryborough Queensland.
The space will be used to attract artists to the Maryborough CBD.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

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.

A man sits at a counter surrounded by household items and art.
This shop on Kent St sells works by local artists.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

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.

A man stands under an ornate wooden staircase and sits under a modern staircase.
The original staircase was discovered during the renovation and is kept under a modern staircase. (ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

“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.

A woman paints on the floor in a warehouse.
Ms. McLean likens the space to something out of Paris or New York.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

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.

A woman looks away from the camera with large scale artwork behind her.
The Maryborough space inspires artist Ms. McLean.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

“It really is paradise,” she said.

“I’ve done residencies before and they’ve been in small, confined spaces.

An original wooden beam from the building is displayed as a work of art.
An original wooden beam from the building on display, along with photos taken during the renovation.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

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.

An old printing press in the foreground with a man standing behind it.
An 1867 printing press is available for the community to use at Gatakers Creative Space.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

“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.

A glimpse through the window of historic buildings.
The loft space shows the potential of empty building spaces in Maryborough CBD, according to Mr Sphor.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

“I think this space has many opportunities for everyone.”

Mr. Spohr hoped the space would become a second home for the local community.

A man stands in a clay workshop with kilns in the background.
Mr. Sphor in the clay art section of Gatakers Creative Space.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

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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