The old Tanja Church has had an injection of new life with the arrival of a former lecturer in arts and performance, a production manager and four generations living on the grounds.
It’s fitting that one of the new owners – Louise Morris – has a PhD which focus’ on how sites hold history. Her passion is for site-specific theatre, creating performances in locations as diverse as an old abattoir in her previous home in Melbourne.
Now Louise and her partner, Matt, are working towards using the church as a performance space and creative hub for the community.
“The church was sold privately against the wishes of the community in the late ’70s,” Louise explains “although apparently there were only two regular churchgoers by that time. More recently, the church ran as Narek Gallery for ten years and now we are opening it up to the public as Navigate Arts.”
In the grassy grounds of the church, Matt and Louise are setting up cozy fire pits, projection screens and stringing lights through the trees and shrubs, ready to officially launch Navigate Arts this Saturday – May 25.
The launch, starting at 6 pm, will feature live music, dance, poetry readings, projections and visual art – a selection of the kinds of art and performance Louise and Matt hope will feature in the church in years to come.
Performers on the night include The Blue Angel and Dr Wiedemann, The Gadflys’ Philip Moriarty, Melanie Horsnell, poet Gabrielle Journey Jones and dance troupe Mica Mahani and the Haniyami.
Louise, who gave up her tenure as a lecturer in arts and performance at Deakin University in Melbourne to move to Tanja, is also passionate about helping people develop their own creative work and holds workshops at the church.
Four generations of Louise’s family now live on the church grounds – her grandmother Marjory, mother Angie and Louise’s son Hunter, along with Louise’s partner Matt.The idea of buying the church began as a flippant email from Louise to her mum over three years ago.
“I said: hey mum, there’s this old church, we could take grandma out of the home and all live there. At the time, I never actually thought we would do it,” Louise laughs.
But as she reflected on her 15 years at Deacon University, Louise says she began to think – “do I want to do this for the rest of my life and then retire?”
Although she loved her job and “having lots of creative young people to play with”, the answer was no and Louise, Matt and Hunter made the move from Melbourne in January this year.
The family is proud of the way they have pooled their resources to create an unconventional living situation that really works for all ages.
“It was a big leap of faith,” Louise adds thoughtfully “churches have always been gathering places and this church, although it hasn’t been a religious place for a long time, I think it still wants that,” Louise says.
For more information about the free Navigate Arts launch, visit their Facebook Event page.
Louise and Matt suggest making a night of it in Tanja on Saturday, May 25 and going to the 2019 Clay Soiree at the Tanja Hall from 3 pm before moving to the Navigate Arts launch, which begins at 6 pm. Light refreshments will be available.