LOCAL artist Steve Harris and local businessman Michael Sinnott had a dream to open a fine art gallery in the Shoalhaven.
Now the dream is taking shape, and by Christmas this year the new gallery – to be called Shoalhaven Fine Art and Framing – will be a reality.
Mr Harris is a painter famed throughout Australia for his still lifes, and as a local had always wanted to hang his work in the region and Mr Sinnott, who owns a framing business, has always wanted to see it on display.
“There was never any space I thought was really suitable for what I was doing,” Mr Harris said.
Mr Sinnott’s partner Gail owned a cafe in Nowra, and when it moved to a space adjoining the framing business, things started to happen.
Mr Harris said the dynamic of the place changed.
“It suddenly felt more cosmopolitan, like places I know in Richmond in Melbourne and Paddington in Sydney.”
When Mr Sinnott improved the internal space next to the cafe, Mr Harris realised he now had a place he could happily display.
“And more than that, a place we could now display other fine artists from the Shoalhaven.”
Mr Harris said this would just be the beginning.
“As it grows, we’ll invite fine artists from all over the South Coast, and then from all across Australia.”
He said the artists chosen would have a certain level of professionalism and accomplishment.
“All the artists must feel comfortable hanging their work together,” he said.
Mr Sinnott said he wanted the artwork to be accessible to all, so there would be limited prints as well as original artworks for sale.
“I want visitors to come to the gallery and cafe as strangers but leave as friends,” he said.
“And leave with a painting,” Mr Harris added.
Shoalhaven City Council is excited by the project. Cr Clive Robertson said fine art galleries were a rare product in the Shoalhaven.
“A gallery like this will benefit St Georges Basin and the Shoalhaven. It will show visitors that the region is about more than just sunshine and beaches,” he said.
“The possible rewards from a fine art gallery are enormous. It’s something you don’t often see outside the big cities, and is a real plus for local artists. It gives visitors another reason to stay in the Shoalhaven.”
Assistant deputy mayor and chairman of the Arts Board Allan Baptist said the quality of the work in the gallery would astound visitors.
“Once established, the region is on the way to developing a cultural trail, where different outlets of similar high quality can link together and reinforce each other’s presence,” Mr Baptist said.
“Once this happens it raises the standard for the whole region.”
Mr Harris and Mr Sinnott were very excited about the interest from council.
“The more people get involved, the faster things seem to happen,” Mr Harris said.