Gallery volunteers reluctantly call ‘time’

Sad to go: Kip Turner says it had been a privilege to sell peninsula artists’ works. Picture: Yanni

Sad to go: Kip Turner says it had been a privilege to sell peninsula artists’ works. Picture: Yanni

AN established Flinders art gallery will close on Valentine’s Day (Sunday), with staff citing a shortage of new volunteers and reluctance by customers to spend on art works.

The Studio @ Flinders gallery has been run by volunteers for the past 12 years. But the five-member staff – Judi McCrum, Meredith Merrall, Ruth Petersen, Kaye Price and Kip Turner – are finding the going tough and their sense of commitment is starting to wane.

“[The gallery] is all artist-run and people these days don’t seem to want to give up their time,” Ms Merrall said.

The volunteers originally thought others would come in “to take over the running” of the gallery, in Cook St, but that hasn’t happened to the extent needed.

“It’s quite a commitment,” Mrs Merrall said, pointing out that she had worked nine full days, 10am-5pm, over the past month, for the love of it. Now she’s ready for a little ‘me-time’.

Another long-standing volunteer, Kip Turner, said people “are starting to hang onto their dollars and one of the first things they let go of is art”.

“They go to the $2 shop and buy things because they are financially not comfortable,” she said.

The gallery started out with 12 partners of whom three remain out of the five now working.

“It’s very hard to get others in but, let’s face it, I’m 67 and some of the others are 10 years older than me.”

Ms Turner said the gallery’s focus had always been on promoting peninsula artists’ works in leather, wood, paintings and ceramics. “I will certainly miss seeing their work. It’s been fantastic and a privilege to sell.

“In Australia we don’t recognise our artists and it’s hard to get people excited by their works; hopefully that’s starting to change but people are fairly conservative down here.”

Ms Turner said during the past 12 years the gallery had become a fixture in Flinders and a favourite of locals and visitors to the Mornington Peninsula.

“The variety of works displayed has been exceptional and we have shown and sold many beautiful artworks over the years.”

Ms Turner said the gallery’s annual Melbourne Teapot Exhibition had “become a regular and much anticipated event on our calendar”.

“Artists from all over Australia participated and, as well as having many famous potters exhibit, our judges were equally well-known, particularly in the ceramic world.

“The support we have had in the past from the local community has been strong and greatly appreciated by all the members of our team. In addition, the sponsorship we have had from local companies and businesses has been exceptional.

“Without their generosity and support the teapot exhibition would not have been able to offer such attractive prizes to our participants.”

Ms Turner said the gallery staff “hoped to go out with a flourish and give people the opportunity to come in and say goodbye”.

They are offering a 15 per cent discount on works still in the gallery until the 14 February closure.

“We feel very much a part of the Flinders profile and will leave with a great deal of sadness,” she said. “The gallery has been a passionate and beloved commitment on our part for a long time.”

First published in the Mornington News – 9 February 2016


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