3 April 2024

Kiama workshops reshape creative expression by doing art differently

| Kellie O'Brien
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Kiama Art Workshops

Kiama Art Workshops is providing art experiences that are just a little different. Photos: Supplied.

Kiama Art Workshops is creating a vibrant palette of artistic offerings by serving up different styles of art from collagraph printing to basket weaving.

Kiama seascape painter Olivia Deans is building upon the legacy of Jamberoo artist Rhonda Murray who, after 10 years, handed over the business last June to focus on her own creative projects.

“I was really interested in what she was doing, and I love art anyway and am based in Kiama, so I thought I’d have a go,” Olivia said.

The unique range of workshops are held at the Kiama Scout Hall or at Kiama artists’ studios, with each art teacher bringing different styles to the community.

“When I was a child, I’d have to travel to Wollongong and Sydney to get lots of different styles of art teaching lessons,” she said.

“We’ve got lots of artists that are local and from Sydney and surrounding areas that bring in different styles.

“We’re just trying to get as many different styles as possible, so people have an opportunity to be exposed to art.”

From mixed media floral art to collagraph printing, layered landscapes using collage and paint, macrame, drawing and the art of grazing, the workshops cater to varied tastes for beginners through to established artists wishing to try new mediums.

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“At the moment there’s a big trend on paint and sip, which is awesome, but I would love people to learn skills from professional artists and be able to develop their own style from the workshops,” she said.

“People can come down and have a weekend in Kiama and do a whole weekend of learning and make a bigger project.”

She said there were one- and two-day workshops, along with private group sessions, with contact made post-workshop to allow questions to be answered.

And many returned, with Olivia continually adding new forms of art to keep returning participants inspired.

“People are coming back to learn more and just loving it,” she said.

“They’re building a bit of community in some of the workshops as well with familiar faces popping in.”

She said the workshops were nurturing creativity while focusing on mindfulness amid the hustle and bustle of daily life.

“Sometimes it’s really nice to allow yourself one or two days to be immersed in something that’s not a course that might lead to a career, but where you can really learn for yourself, be mindful and take that to your own practice at home,” she said.

Integral to the success of the workshops is the spirit of generosity among instructors, who freely share their expertise.

“They don’t want to hold back any secrets, they’re willing to share and give as much as possible so that people can really take as much home as they can,” she said.

“I think that’s one of the biggest comments we get is that the artists are really generous in giving as much information as possible to participants.”

She said the other comment received was wishing they had started earlier.

“Lots of people I’ve taught in the last few years say I wish when I was younger I had put time into developing my art or doing more of it because they said it is so mindful and they really enjoyed it, but life got in the way,” she said.

“It’s really nice even seeing younger people coming in and enjoying connecting with like-minded people, connecting with artists and building that community where if they’ve got any questions, they can go to the people they’ve met and say, ‘Hey, can I have some support or some guidance in a project I’m doing?’”

It’s a reflection on her own beginnings in art, having been exposed to creating art as a child.

“My pop had me in the studio on his lap and I just taught myself as I’ve gone and really enjoy it,” she said.

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Looking ahead, Olivia wants to further enhance the community spirit being fostered by planning communal exhibitions and inclusive initiatives.

“What we want to do this year is to develop enough workshops where people can create works, and next year I would love to get a communal exhibition where people can exhibit projects they’ve been able to develop from a workshop,” she said.

“Maybe they’ve been inspired by something, maybe they’ve developed their own work from something they’ve learned.

“I’m also developing a weekly or monthly community get-together where people can work on a project and help each other.”

She said her interest in fostering wellbeing had also led her to donate workshop spots.

“If someone’s struggling or can’t access a workshop, we’re going to make it more accessible and donate some spots in our workshops as well,” she said.

Artists interested in running workshops can contact Kiama Art Workshops.

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