Regional creatives shine at coastal art month

An art fair in a retro motel, live performances, gourmet food and coastal views offer the perfect getaway in a region using cultural tourism to help drive economic recovery.

Ravaged by bushfires in the Black Summer of 2019-2020, the joint appeal of cultural tourism and the Sapphire Coast’s natural beauty are being leveraged to attract tourists to the area once again. 

Supported by Destination NSW and a two-year bushfire recovery fund, Bega Valley Regional Gallery Director Iain Dawson envisioned Art Month Sapphire Coast as a way to revive the tourist-dependent region and assist artists on their path to recovery. 

‘Because all these artists can run their own events, and they do throughout the year, it’s really great for us to bring it all together under one umbrella and support them to come together as a creative community,’ Dawson told ArtsHub.

‘We launched last year with a digital version and that actually gave us a bit of a trial run. People saw how great it was and [this year] participants have doubled.’

The packed program embraces 225 kilometres of natural wonder between Bermagui and Eden, and includes art trails, workshops, live performances and plenty of food and drinks. 

A booked-out VIP preview of Motel Art Fair kicks off the celebrations on Friday 30 July, which sees the Norfolk Pine Motel’s 19 retro-style rooms transformed by artists. Each room has been given over to a different artist, whose practices embrace everything from prints and painting to glass objects and jewellery. 

Running free to public on Saturday, visitors can meet the makers behind the works, including artist Lily Nicholson and Sapphire Coast photographer David Rogers, who participated in the online program last year. 

‘The art fair is a one-stop shop for visitors – especially new collectors and young people – where they can see what’s on offer in one location. It’s a really accessible way for people to start a collection and take a bit of the local area away with them,’ Dawson explained.

Artist Gabrielle McGrath from Red Peg Eco Studio will be one of the exhibitors at Motel Art Fair. Image supplied.

Despite current travel restrictions, Dawson is confident that support from metropolitan visitors will give creatives the chance to showcase their talents. 

‘After lockdown finished last year, a lot of metro travelers were coming to the area who hadn’t been before … This could be the perfect push for people to find a pathway down to this area, which is relatively undiscovered in a lot of ways,’ he said.

Music concerts ranging from classical to electronic will ring out across the region, while workshops will offer the chance to learn printmaking, songwriting, burlesque chair dancing, and more. 

Those who fancy a unique drinking experience can book for a painting class matched with hand-crafted gin atop the rolling hills of Mount Mumbulla, hosted by the multi-award-winning distillery North of Eden.

Book in for a Paint & Pour class at North of Eden. Image supplied. 

While the Bega Valley Regional Gallery is currently under development, Dawson sees Art Month as ‘a really good way for us to bring events out into the community.’

With the support of the local Council, South East Arts, Destination Sapphire Coast and sponsor Bendigo Bank, artists are able to participate in these events at minimal cost, which is key in facilitating the region’s artistic recovery.

‘We are trying to build up the event so that it can run without us having to invest a huge amount of money into it,’ Dawson said. 

‘It’s really about giving regional artists and performers [a platform] and building on their tools.’

Art Month Sapphire Coast runs from 30 July – 31 August at various locations. View the full program and book tickets. Register for your free ticket to the Motel Art Fair on Saturday 31 July. 

Celina Lei is an Arts Writer at ArtsHub. She acquired her masters in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. Prior to joining ArtsHub, she was an editorial assistant at the Hong Kong based ArtAsiaPacific magazine and is an art host on independent Instagram platform Club Ambroise. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne, Victoria. Instagram: @lleizy_