TRANSFORMATION: Local artists Belinda Curry and Jacinta Beatts (Whitsunday Regional Gallery) are seeking community support for the formation of the Whitsunday Regional Gallery Co-operative.
TRANSFORMATION: Local artists Belinda Curry and Jacinta Beatts (Whitsunday Regional Gallery) are seeking community support for the formation of the Whitsunday Regional Gallery Co-operative. Matthew Newton

Drawn to dream

"WHEN I opened those doors, I never dreamt that it would do what it has, so quickly," Whitsunday Regional Gallery founder Jacinta Beatts said.

The Whitsunday Regional Gallery, situated in the Old Ambulance Depot in Proserpine, is set to become a community co-operative from July.

The past 11 months have been busy for Ms Beatts, who opened the doors in May last year, providing an exhibition space that was quickly snapped up by local artists and high school students who wished to display their works.

"I've met a lot of fantastic people here which you'd never get a chance to meet ordinarily," she said.

The co-operative is now seeking expressions of interest from local individuals, groups and businesses that have a passion for supporting arts and wish to see the gallery develop and grow.

The formation of the co-operative will assist in the development of an "arts centre".

The centre will continue to host an exhibition space for local artists but will also include a workshop program featuring qualified local artists and artists from surrounding regions.

It is envisaged that, in time, the arts centre will develop into a thriving regional gallery.

It is an exciting time for Ms Beatts, who said the transformation from a business into a co-operative would allow the gallery to apply for state and federal grants and funding.

The co-operative has spoken with the council and will soon meet with Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan and Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen in the hope of gaining their support for the project.

"If you walk into any country town, there is a regional gallery or a decent-sized gallery," Ms Beatts said.

She said there were many different art groups in the area but no central exhibition space.

"And this is a way to bring them all together," she said. "We still want it to be for the students, emerging artists and professional artists."

Also instrumental in the establishment of the co-operative is local artist Belinda Curry.

Ms Curry said there would be about 10-14 shares in the co-operative.

"We'd like to have a dedicated art space which is accessible to the community as a whole," she said.

"Plus, we'd like to see increased professional development for the artists of this region.

"One of the other reasons Proserpine was picked is because it's centrally located in the region and also to try and generate some economic stimulus, which Proserpine needs," Ms Curry said.

"We're still seeking stakeholders at this stage because we do need funding. We have to pay the rent." The gallery is planning to hold its first two exhibitions soon, one in May and another in June. If you or your organisation is interested in joining the gallery co-operative, phone Jacinta Beatts on 0417 022 940.


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