3 May 2024

Shellharbour calls on creatives to apply for artist residency and grow their artistic confidence

| Kellie O'Brien
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Stephanie Quirk Artist in Residence

Stephanie Quirk has gained confidence through the Incubator Artist Residency program at The Imaginarium. Photo: Supplied.

During her time at The Imaginarium in Shellharbour, Mount Warrigal artist Stephanie Quirk has not only honed her skills in creating large-scale paintings but has also experienced a significant boost in confidence.

Now, she’s advocating for fellow artists to seize the opportunity and join Shellharbour City Council’s Incubator Artist Residency program.

Expressions of interest are being sought from artists interested in undertaking a residency in the creative space in Shellharbour Village.

The Imaginarium has been Stephanie’s artistic home for the past month, which will come to an end on Sunday (5 May), with two new four-week residencies due to run from 5 August to 1 September this year, and 7 April to 4 May, 2025.

Stephanie gained a master’s degree in fine arts from Sydney College of the Arts 15 years ago and worked hard in the Sydney arts scene for a few years, before quitting personal art projects for mountaineering and martial arts.

At the same time, she became a high school art teacher and, after having children, found herself returning to her own art.

Now living in Mount Warrigal and having recently had another baby, she said being on 12 months’ maternity leave was the perfect opportunity to do the residency after having witnessed another artist complete their residency six months earlier.

“I really wanted to connect initially with other artists locally,” she said.

“One of the big things in Sydney was when you’re around other artists it really helps you; there’s an accountability; there’s a critical dialogue that happens and a sense of camaraderie as well.”

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During her residency, Stephanie said she had gained a lot, including access to a physical space with incredible light ideal for artists.

“I’ve got a studio at home, but I’ve been working on a 10-metre by two-and-a-half-metre canvas,” she said.

“I started at home and I was really only able to roll out bits and pieces at a time.

“Being in this space you can actually see the canvas in its entirety.”

She said she had now finished that canvas and was onto her second same-sized canvas, which she was confident she could complete by Sunday.

Her first piece was based on flowers and involved overlapping shapes with big bold Roman-style vases, while the second piece was inspired by shells from Shellharbour Village, having been “sketching and painting the shells, which have exploded onto the canvas”.

She also gained connections – from a lady in her 80s popping in every couple of days and now offering to teach her quilting to incorporate into future art, through to running a school holiday workshop painting shells with young people.

Stephanie said she was grateful to Shellharbour City Council, which not only gave her access to the space for four weeks, but also $5000 to use on materials, which took away the financial pressure.

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“Having that financial support really allows me to experiment and play, which is the most fertile grounds for new work,” she said.

“When you’ve got pressure on yourself, that really constricts you creatively.”

She said she would encourage any artist or creative practitioner to apply for the residency because it gave you a “real sense of validation as an artist”.

“There’s a lot of self-doubt as a practising artist, so a council body is really an institution and having them back you gives you the confidence to keep going,” she said.

“Every now and then you need those little breadcrumbs of confidence.”

The incubator also includes the opportunity to present works as part of the Artist of the Month program at Shellharbour Civic Centre.

Artists are required to offer some form of community engagement or public presentation during a residency, which can include a workshop, artist talk, exhibition, performance or open studio.

To learn more about the Incubator Artist Residency and to apply, visit the website. Applications close Sunday (5 May).

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