The Creative Workshop – Arts skills initiative for the Central Coast

September saw the first two-day sessions for creative skills, held by The Creative Workshop, a member-based, not-for-profit organisation aiming to provide access to specialised skills in arts, design and craft on the Coast.

The Creative Workshop is the brainchild of Jessica Gledhill, an artist and arts curator who saw a need on the Coast for intensive courses that introduce students to new skills, with access to professional equipment and tutors.

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Jess studied at Sydney College of the Arts and was working as curator and gallery administrator at Newcastle Art School when it struck her that although the Coast has a vibrant arts community, there wasn’t much access for the community at large to the sorts of education and equipment that art students have – that intense immersion with expert tuition in a specialised space that is usually only available to tertiary students. This was especially so for media such as screen printing (one of Jess’ disciplines) and etching which both require heavy, specialised tools.

Open-access creative workspaces have been successful in many regions and Jess drew heavily on their example when formulating a plan for the Coast. She felt passionately that there was an opening for short, intense courses that would pair students with tutors renowned within their discipline. These students could come from any background – hobbyists who wanted to give something new a go, working artists wishing to up-skill into a new area or those who are brushing up on old skills. It would also be great for those wishing to embark on tertiary study to get a taste of what it’s like.

Jess started the planning phase quite some time ago and, after an initial meeting,pulled together an interim committee of 14 artists. She started applying for grants and was lucky on her sixth attempt, with The Creative Workshop receiving funding under the Gosford Council Community Development Grant.

This enabled the first workshops to go ahead in late September this year, agreat testing ground for whether the plan was a viable one! The first workshops were Screen Print Your Own Posters with Ben Rak from Cicada Press and COFA, Screen Print Your Own T-Shirts and Fabrics with Mambo designer Brent Smith, Print Your Own Etchings And Linocuts with internationally exhibited printmaker Ingeborg Zotz and Print Your Own Monotypes with Master Printmaker Amanda Davies.

On the following weekend Experimental Fashion Design was run by costumier for The Lion King, and Jess’s mother, Elizabeth Gledhill. The creative streak definitely runs in the family!

All classes ran for two days over a weekend, with seven pupils per class, and sold out well before commencing. I think we can call that a success. The Creative Workshop now has a waiting list for classes, with more planned for the future. In the meantime, Jess is looking for a more permanent home for the workshops. The first classes ran out of the studios at Gosford Regional Art Gallery and although great as a springboard, it’s not the permanent home Jess envisages. The equipment needed for printmaking doesn’t make for an easy set up in a temporary space, and Jess is determined to create a permanent, open access workspace where students can further their practice and utilise equipment and expertise outside of the skills workshops.

Jess’ main drive at the moment is to find The Creative Workshop a home. The initial classes have resulted in a very successful exhibition of students’ work that has further cemented the success of the venture. Jess is currently working on increasing membership and engaging our highly skilled local arts community to come on board to ensure The Creative Workshop becomes a permanent fixture on the Coast.

To find out about upcoming classes or meetings follow The Creative Workshop on Facebook. And if you would like to be involved call Jess on 0410837511 or email info@creativeworkshop.org.au

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