Summer on the Fleurieu

The Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide, is home to many South Australian artists and designers. Living alongside glorious beaches, wineries and natural bushland offers a tranquil, creative and inspirational lifestyle. Across the peninsula local councils, businesses and entrepreneurs are also embracing this creative abundance, providing opportunities for artists to create, exhibit and sell their work.

One of the newest spaces to open in the region is Fleurieu Arthouse, established by partners Anna Small and Warren Pickering in Main Street, McLaren Vale. Described as an alchemy of artisan studios, art gallery, retail shop and workshops, Fleurieu Arthouse opened in July 2017 with the support of a start-up grant from City of Onkaparinga.

It was a serendipitous beginning for this new venture, as Small and Pickering create metal work and were selling it from their home. They were starting to look for a space to rent with a gallery attached when they connected with City of Onkaparinga and Mayor Lorraine Rosenberg, who were seeking to support a new creative hub within the council area.

Mayor Rosenberg had been meeting and listening to local artists and realised there was a pressing need for more artists studios and creative spaces. Prepared to invest in local artists, City of Onkaparinga called for tenders for a 3-year $70,000 grant to establish an artist studio and workshop initiative. Armed with a bold vision, a business plan and a commitment from Hardy’s winery, Small and Pickering secured the tender and proceeded to transform the former Dryden Gallery at Hardy’s Tintara Cellar Door into a dynamic and impressive creative space.

Eight artists now work from the studio spaces, which are constructed from wooden palettes and low walls, with Small remarking, “The artists are really happy with the spaces, they can engage with visitors and are happy to talk about their work. The low walls allow for audiences to see the work of the artists when they are not actually in their studios.” Resident artists include Well Made Creative Peactitioner Dana Kinter, who is using the space to expand her design work onto fabrics, photographer Sabine Verhack, goldsmith Lara Tilbrook and printmaker Elizabeth Abbott.

The studios branch off the large open gallery and retail space showing painting, sculpture, jewellery, ceramics, glass, metalwork and woodwork. Small is committed to quality and presenting the work of professional practicing artists from across the Fleurieu, “I curate the space and work with the artists on selecting pieces, it is a business and works are for sale and a priority is for artists to monetise their artwork and make a living.” With the work of 73 artists currently on display, the richness of the Fleurieu creative community is impressive, from glass objects by Llewlyn Ash to Stephen Anthony’s woodwork and Mickelina Barlow’s paintings and clapping sticks, and of course the metalworks by Small and Pickering which have now found a new home.

Also supported by the City of Onkaparinga and with a reputation for exhibiting the work of exceptional contemporary artists is Sauerbier House Culture Exchange in Port Noarlunga. Launched in 2015, this gallery and artist in residence studio is a former colonial villa on the banks of the Onkaparinga/Ngangkiparingga river, transformed into a space for expanded visual arts practice including sound art, text, performance and ephemeral practices.

Coordinator Jaynie Langford oversees the programming and selection of artists for the Artist in Residence (AiR) and GRAFTd exhibition program, with the support of the Sauerbier House Culture Exchange Reference Group. The AiR program is one of only a handful of residency programs in South Australia, and is unique in that it offers three months of support to an artist to create new work.

The artists receive a small stipend, a studio space and gallery for exhibition outcomes, and in the future Langford hopes there will be on site accommodation for the artist. She says that the strategic plan for Sauerbier House Culture Exchange is, “Supporting artists and to encourage involvement with local community to share their practice and processes. We want to help demystify contemporary art and make it accessible through open conversations, demonstrations, workshops and events.”

The strategy appears to be working, with recent resident Paul Gazzola working with local community on the project COLLECTORS/COLLECTIONS, an ongoing investigation into the aesthetics of popular culture seen through the eyes of local collectors and their private collections. The resulting exhibition was a fascinating journey into the curious and the quirky, including local collections of vintage skateboards, candle snuffers, fabrics, pillboxes and more.

A new residency initiative involves opening up the Sustainability Department at City of Onkaparinga to the resident artist. With a commitment by council to action on climate change, artists will be encouraged to access data and information collected by the department and integrate this into certain residency and exhibition outcomes. Langford comments that a great success of the AiR program is, “Artists engaging locally with themes of environment, migratory birds, the sea and the river, Kaurna business, pre-colonial history and the landscape.”

Sauerbier House Culture Exchange is becoming a catalyst for this re-invigoration and pride in local knowledge, and something that will undoubtedly be explored by current resident Henry Jock Walker in his surf themed residence, Table Rock, transforming an artspace into a temporary surf shop. With the residency included in the Adelaide Fringe program, Walker is welcoming visitors and locals to share their surf stories to inspire collaborative explorations culminating in the official launch event on Saturday 24 March.

So summer is definitely a great time on the Fleurieu Peninsula and after a visit to Sauerbier House Culture Exchange, Jaynie Langford recommends a walk on the beach, a trip to one of the wicked wineries and her top pick, “Friday’s after Five at Aldinga is a ripper!”

For Anna Small, her hot tips are an early morning breakfast at Willunga Farmers Market, and then drop into Fleurieu Arthouse, coffee at Dal Mare, a tasting at one of McLaren Vale’s many wineries before a late afternoon swim at Port Willunga.

Sauerbier House Culture Exchange, 21 Wearing Street, Port Noarlunga. Opening hours: Wednesday - Friday 10am to 4pm, Saturday 12noon to 4pm.

Fleurieu Arthouse, 202 Main Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171. Open 7 days 11am to 4pm.

Images (banner): Fleurieu Arthouse artist studios, Photographer Jack Small. Images (top to bottom): Fleurieu Arthouse front counter, Image courtesy Fleurieu Arthouse; Fleurieu Arthouse retail space, Photographer Jack Small; Sauerbier House Culture Exchange, Photographer Suzanne Mustan; Melinda Rackham, White Wash, 2016, Installation and performance, Image courtesy Sauerbier House; Henry Jock Walker, locals only, 2017, Image courtesy of artist.

Keywords: Fleurieu