The old Bellingen Stables has had many functions over the years, since George Moore oversaw its creation 110 years ago with concrete bricks made on-site . It originally functioned as the stables attached to Bellingen’s Police Station, a function that continued well past the introduction of cars due to the then poor quality of Bellingen’s roads. Its current reinvention is probably its most exciting though and one that has Bellingen’s creative community all abuzz.
Maureen Eley-Round (on left) and Julie Hutchinson, integral members of local artists group ‘Mixed Up Arts’ (a sub committee of the Bellingen Community Arts Council) have been working more as project managers than artists for the past 2 years, to create a stunning new community and art space which will be fondly known as ‘The Stables’. “Our dream has always been for an open art studio, where artists can meet, share ideas, be introduced to new mediums, learn and enjoy each others company,” says Maureen. And this dream becomes a reality on February 24th at ‘The Stables’ opening.
For the past few years the Stables has been utilised as part of the Bellingen Shire Learning Alliance’s collection of small buildings (mostly demountable) in what is commonly termed the ‘Telstra Carpark’. Mixed Up Arts is one of several community groups that make up this Alliance. Until now these groups have shared just one room in a demountable. “It was actually Lisa Siegel (Centre for Ecological Learning) and Sue Lennox (OzGreen) who suggested the artists could move into the neglected ‘Stables’ building. At the time I’m guessing it was to shift our mess and equipment out of the shared space. Little did they know it would be the start of something so exciting!” says Julie.
The artists quickly realised the space being used for storage had “great bones” says Maureen. So the artistic duo set about researching available grants which would allow their dreams to become a reality. “We stumbled across the Heritage Activation Grant with a closing date in one week. We managed to formulate a budget and get together all the information necessary and still make the deadline. That was in April 2017 but it wasn’t until November of that year we were awarded $32,600. We had actually given up,” says Maureen.
This couple obviously work well under pressure. Over the next month, after discovering their funding success, they prepared and submitted a DA. “This also included architectural plans drawn up in less than a month by local artist and architect Philip Senior. He didn’t charge us. He shared in our vision. This wouldn’t have happened without his support,” says Julie. “And the support of many,” says Maureen.
“A host of volunteers have given their time and man power to this project. Once the DA was approved last year we have had several working bees- stripping walls and preparing surfaces,” says Julie.
The space is now fully operational and stunning. Funky light fittings and gallery lighting, timber doors and polished concrete floors have transformed the space into their very own “groovy art space,” says Julie. The space will be available for other groups too for a multitude of uses- workshops, performances, meetings, rehearsals and of course an exhibition space. “Primarily this will be an educational space for the community,” says Julie.
Mixed Up Arts was awarded the Community Art Support Grant recently, which will finance a workshop series ‘ArtLink’. “This project will incorporate both performing arts and visual arts, with tutors once weekly over school terms 2 and 3. We are aiming to bring together young adults (18 to 24 year olds) with adults – linking the two groups through the arts,” says Julie. Local thespian Rob Simpson will be the resident performing arts tutor for the project. “Rob’s support with The Stables Project and with ArtLink since the very outset has been invaluable,” says Julie.
The whole community are invited to ‘The Stables’ opening February 24th 10 am-2 pm to share in the ‘fun and games’- literally! “I always wanted to create an Arts Olympics,” says Julie. ‘Musical Easels’, ‘Master Sculpture’, ‘Thank the Gods You’re Here’ and a ‘Recycling Challenge’ are just some of the games in store on the day. This is one day not to be missed.
This dynamic duo is still laughing and more importantly still friends. “We are exhausted but thrilled. It is now a reality,” says Maureen.