15 June 2023

Is Wander Wollongong a sign of a shift in the city's art scene?

| Dione David
Start the conversation
Daryl Lo at 130 Art Studios

Daryl Lo created 130 Art Studios as a platform for artists to test their ideas. Photo: Katelyn Slyer.

Flanked by Sydney, Berry and the Southern Highlands, the Illawarra is perhaps not known as an “artist’s region” – but that could soon change according to one local artist and entrepreneur.

Daryl Lo’s gallery, 130 Art Studios, is part of Wollongong City Council’s Wander Wollongong art trail, which connects the CBD’s diverse galleries, studios, creative spaces and public art in a showcase of local talent – and there’s plenty of it.

“One of the reasons we created 130 Art Studios is because we can see where this area is headed,” Daryl says.

“The next six to 12 months will be an exciting time in Wollongong with so much happening in the artistic landscape and so many creatives coming out of the woodworks.”

130 Art Studios

130 Art Studios is a part of the Wander Wollongong Art Trail. Photo: 130 Art Studios.

An established artist, Daryl used lockdown to brush up on his fine arts studies at West Wollongong TAFE where he took on a research assignment into artist residencies and managing galleries.

It revealed a deficit in the local art ecosystem.

“When I was an artist in my 20s I saw no pathways to becoming a full-time artist,” Daryl says.

“In some places as an artist you’re respected but in Australia often creativity is coached out of you. Artists are generally not celebrated until they’ve made it. But that’s a bit of a Catch-22 because it’s a tough practice to earn a living with.

“Residencies are a way to be a full-time artist and develop your practice without the pressure of commercialising to survive. But there needs to be more opportunity.”

READ ALSO Medieval mercenaries searching for new knights to join them in battle

That’s why 130 Art Studios was born – to create opportunities and spaces for creatives to “test ideas”.

The 400 sqm warehouse has been converted into studios that currently host 12 artist residents, with a gallery space attached.

This in itself is a step towards shifting Wollongong’s artistic profile.

“There are so many great artists in the Illawarra, but that can be a bit invisible. Many work in their homes and garages and unless they’ve ‘made it’, have been shown at Wollongong Art Gallery or have paid to show at other galleries, you might not know about them,” Daryl says.

130 Art Studios

The studio hosts a variety of classes for creatives as well as live music gigs and other events. Photo: 130 Art Studios.

For that reason, artists aren’t charged to show at 130 Art Studios.

The studio also hosts way-finding classes for creatives who feel a bit lost, art classes for anyone wanting to hone or discover creative skills, and live music gigs.

Two of the studio spaces are currently vacant as Daryl seeks grants to fund a residency program for Dharawal Country artists and a six-month “aspiring artists” program.

He is also looking into before and after-hours yoga in the gallery for added exposure and open mic, comedy and spoken word nights.

“This place is for anyone prepared to test ideas,” Daryl says.

“I couldn’t see that path as a 20-something artist, so I want to create something here – for any creative looking for it.”

READ ALSO From Catholic schoolgirl to tattooist, Little e bucks family trend and follows her passion for ink

As more and more spaces like these crop up to lure the creative class, creativity begets creativity.

“After we set up shop, Bad News Gallery appeared and shortly after that, Crown Art & Design and then a few more creative spaces. That kind of momentum is a great thing for everyone,” he says.

“The more there is, the more we start to be seen as an arts precinct and people will stop bypassing Wollongong for places like Berry in search of that.

“That’s why the Wander Wollongong initiative is so good, too.”

The arts trail featuring 16 studios, galleries and creative spaces, and a selection of public art will officially launch later this month with a weekend of exhibitions, artist talks and workshops.

Alongside its biannual residencies exhibition, 130 Art Studios will host framing, way-finding and other creative sessions against the backdrop of live music from Illawarra jazz and soul musicians. But Daryl says visitors will be spoiled for choice.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going on in the city’s other creative spaces,” he says.

“There’s going to be some really cool stuff happening,” he says.

The Wander Wollongong launch takes place on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 June from noon to 4 pm in various Wollongong CBD locations. Visit Wollongong CBD for more information.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.