Gong's walking tour opens eyes to arts vitality

Wollongong's underground art scene may be hidden no longer, with a walking tour of the city set to uncover some of our concealed creative gems.

Studio 19 art space will lead groups through the CBD’s art hot spots this weekend, as part of a tour aimed at highlighting the region’s hidden talents.

Starting in Central Chambers, the tour will weave through Project Contemporary Art Space, Art Arena and Wollongong City Gallery among others, also taking in some of the city’s public art installations.

“These places have been around for years, but people might not even know they are there,” said Caroline Nowaczyk.

“Last time we had people who were intimidated by going to galleries. We try to take away that fear and show art is accessible.”

The tours were funded by Wollongong Culture Bank under their first round of funding last year. Culture Bank spokeswoman Tania Mastroianni said she was pleased to see their grant had seeded a venture bringing attention to the wider Wollongong creative community.

“We walk past these places every day but it’s not until people point them out we see things with new eyes,” she said.

Tania Mastroianni, Emma-Lee Crane, Carolyn Nowaczyk and Nina Kourea prepare for a walking tour of Wollongong art spaces. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Tania Mastroianni, Emma-Lee Crane, Carolyn Nowaczyk and Nina Kourea prepare for a walking tour of Wollongong art spaces. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

“We supported Studio 19 but it has a ripple effect on all the little art spaces too.’’

Ms Nowaczyk said the tours were a response to a Wollongong arts community that was flourishing, and contributing to a true sense of creativity and vitality in the city.

“The work on the mall and the paid parking are driving people away from the city, but the creative side of Wollongong is a big part of what keeps people coming in.”

The walking tour begins at 10am on Saturday. Participants should meet at Studio 19, inside Central Chambers. Cost is $5.

Wollongong Culture Bank is calling for applications for its second round of creative grants.

The Culture Bank, started last year, operates something like a building society or a crowd-funding venture, where small membership fees create a funding pool that members then distribute to various projects.

Studio 19’s walking tours received funding in the first round, with Austinmer Dance Theatre and the Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy also sharing in about $6000.

‘‘We’re interested in hearing from writers, painters, poets, performance artists, musicians, the whole lot really,’’ Culture Bank’s Tania Mastroianni said.

‘‘The criteria is to support local creative people, whatever they’re doing in their endeavours.’’

Applications are open until March 20.

The bank also wants to recruit more members and some business assistance.

‘‘Lots of businesses support sport teams, so why not support the arts in a similar way?’’ Ms Mastroianni said.

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