A Goulburn success story of artists rescuing and reusing a heritage building as their gallery has, in the nick of time, a new protagonist.
Last year’s celebrations marking Gallery on Track’s first 10 years were tinged with misgivings summarised by long-serving president Carol Divall: “We’re getting old, where is the new crew?”
Later, Carol answered her own question when she asked Malcolm Harrild, a hobbyist woodturner, to become president. Malcolm and his wife Janice first spotted the gallery when they relocated to Goulburn from Cherrybrook in Sydney.
“I was taken by what I saw in this gallery from that moment on,” Malcolm said.
Under a raked-timber ceiling, the sheer scope of handmade products for sale – ceramics, paintings, textiles, woodwork, clothing and jewellery – left him enthralled. The more he has learned since about the 115 members from throughout the Southern Tablelands and Highlands, the more his optimism has grown.
Malcolm and Australian-born Janice arrived in Sydney from the United Kingdom in the 1980s, when he continued working in computers, before switching to property roles in the private and public sectors.
His property background is proving useful in assessing the 1891 former brick-and-iron railway barracks that volunteers converted into a gallery, office and workshop. On railway land, the building is owned by the Australian Rail Transport Corporation, which leases it to the artists’ collective under a full-repairing lease.
Malcolm wants to implement a gradual upgrade, including the halogen and LED lighting, which is unsuitable for a gallery. The halogens don’t last long and need replacing regularly, and the whole lighting arrangement leaves dark patches in the exhibition space.
“We got advice from Raina Savage and her lighting (at the Performing Arts Centre) and it was Raina that recommended the parallel lines (of lighting) rather than transverse line, which I think is an excellent idea,” he said.
“One of my tasks is to lay out a design and some form of specification and get quotes and find a grant because it will cost from $10,000 to $30,000.”
Malcolm’s journey into woodturning will be familiar to anyone taking up a new hobby in later life. Under constant pressure as a property consultant and wanting a distraction, he joined Western Sydney Woodturners to learn from experienced operators to turn wood into bowls, which he found therapeutic.
“If you speak to people like (sculptor) Walter Brecely or Ann Rogan or Daphne Gooley, who paint and have their exhibitions here, I’m sure it must be therapeutic for them as well,” he said.
In the aftermath of COVID-19 restrictions, a backlog of handmade artistic pieces flowed into the gallery for sale in time for the stream of visitors and locals calling in and enjoying their freedom after lockdowns.
Consequently, turnover in 2022 returned to healthy levels for the gallery. Malcolm said a selection committee assessed arts and crafts products for quality and authenticity before they were displayed for sale.
“The second check is Carol Divall and Michelle Lynch, our two curators, will look at the product and ask how does it fit in this gallery?” Malcolm said. “Is it of the quality and approach that we want to establish in the gallery?”
The new president wants to see gallery visitors encouraged to become members.
“They don’t have to be producing work and putting it on the walls, they can join our community and learn if there are any skills around that they would like to take part in,” he said.
Exhibitions have been booked for every month of 2023 and Malcolm expects workshops like the ones Julie Elliott’s textiles group, silversmith Walter Brecely and acclaimed artist Stavros Papantoniou conducted in 2022 will continue to be popular.
In the exhibition area, curator Michelle Lynch recently covered the rear wall with cladding and painted it.
“That end of the room now looks like an exhibition space, not a wall on which you banged a couple of nails in and hung things up. She did a lovely job,” Malcolm said.
Members cleaned and painted the display pedestals, and publicity officer Pamela Stevenson, with help from Sharon Bourgeois, continue to build a presence on Facebook. More online recognition of what’s happening at the gallery should bring more people into Goulburn and the gallery, Malcolm said.
“So I think it’s onward and upward for the gallery across a broad spectrum,” he said.