Art Arena back from the brink


Art Arena and Studio

Until January 12

There's a plush, dimly lit lounge room within Art Arena Gallery and Studio where emerging artists regularly meet.

It's a comfy haven away from the hustle and bustle. It's where ideas are born and shared and it sits in contrast to the two bright exhibition rooms.

Down a small alley off Market Street in Wollongong, Australia's longest-running artist-operated gallery has been reborn after facing closure just two months ago.

Art Arena president and artist Kylie Sweeney de Havilland is excited to see a growing number of artists make use of the space.

"For me, it's about artists getting together," explains Sweeney de Havilland, who stepped up to the role of president last month, determined to not only save the gallery but make it a must-see in the city.

"The idea is not just for artists but musicians and poets - for an eclectic mix to come here and use the artspace.

"When people visit a town they want to see the artists' work of the town."

Artists are encouraged to join the gallery to not only enjoy the affordable rates to show their works, but to also gain mentoring from those experienced in the industry.

"The services we provide are for emerging artists who haven't shown before," Sweeney de Havilland says, adding that aspiring artists are still finding it difficult to break into the local scene.

"It's to help them with the process and how to get ready for an exhibition."

Already, the membership has climbed to 70 people since the new team was formed two months ago.

Art Arena was established in 1982 and Sweeney de Havilland has been involved with the group for about 13 years.

The revival of the art gallery is being marked by the Voyagers Verge exhibition, a mix of works by emerging and professional artists.

Voyagers Verge is already on show and will be officially launched this Saturday.

The exhibition aims to introduce the community to the revamped gallery and studio, while also providing information about projects, workshops and what's in store for 2013.

"In just a short space of time we've connected with so many groups - young contemporaries, a printing group, and an indigenous group will be setting up next year," Sweeney de Havilland says.

The launch on Saturday starts at 5pm and the gallery is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

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