As a local artist, I’ve got the scoop on the vibrant art scene in Maitland and you won’t have to look far. It’s in the regional gallery, inside independent art spaces, out on the streets and in the art studios open to the public. Buskers can be heard along the main street and there is also a long-standing community theatre. The tremendous variety of local skills and national or even international talent generates a creative and vibrant place full of exciting art to both enjoy and purchase.
Maitland Regional Art Gallery, or MRAG for short, is a welcoming and community driven public gallery. I always enjoy the number of impressive exhibitions on show. The building itself is a combination of federation gothic style and state of the art gallery design. Every inch is utilised with works spilling down the corridors, out onto the lawns, onto the side of the building, and through to the vast exhibition spaces.
MRAG is home to a collection of more than 4,000 works, along with touring and one-off exhibitions, all free. Every time I visit there is a buzzing inside the gallery from Seraphine Café which slots seamlessly into its artistic home. I constantly enjoy the gallery shop, which stocks beautiful, quirky and locally crafted goods. This is my favourite hunting ground for those ‘I have no clue what to get them’ people. I’m also very impressed by MRAG’s incredible community engagement. Whether you are an art lover or have never visited a gallery in your life, this is a place for everyone.
Visiting independent galleries in Maitland shows the diversity of work being produced in this region. High Street’s new galleries colour the main street. Continuing along the art trail from MRAG, I often visit Studio Amsterdam. Patricia Van Lubeck has created a gallery which is dark and moody, allowing her vibrant works to loom from the walls and windows. Van Lubeck is also responsible for The New One, a massive mural at the Bourke Street Link, that welcomes visitors to The Levee. The painting represents the Maitland community’s friendliness by capturing the moment a newcomer arrives, something the artist has experienced firsthand.
Only a minute’s walk from Studio Amsterdam is The Levee Art Gallery and Studios with its slick black and white exterior. Brightly coloured artworks pop through its windows, urging me to always take a peek inside. With three gallery exhibition spaces and two studio rooms, there’s a variety of workshops on offer. I enjoy both the local and national artists who use a variety of mediums, including resin. If you’re feeling inspired by all this art, you may like to purchase some art supplies. With resin kits, resin pigments and alcohol inks, you can recreate some techniques used by these artists at home.
On Melbourne Street in East Maitland I can step into The Hunter Artisan Gallery and Café. The salon space creates a cosy atmosphere celebrating artists from across the Hunter. With a quaint café often full of artists, poets and writers, I find this place both visually and gastronomically invigorating.
While I’m in East Maitland, I venture to historic Maitland Gaol to explore art of a different kind. With graffiti and illustrations penned by inmates in days gone by, I’m intrigued to see what mysterious art on the cell walls I can spot.
Jumping into the car for less than a ten minute drive gets me to Morpeth, home of Morpeth Gallery known for its decorative and investment art. Paintings of birds whose feathers seem to rustle and lakes which glisten and ripple, the challenge of capturing landscapes, wildlife and botanical wonders in startling detail has been achieved beautifully by the selection of artists. I find this to be an intimate and welcoming gallery celebrating artistic techniques and creative expression.
But where’s the art of performance I hear you ask? I feel like some acting props and stage design! Maitland is also home to the Maitland Repertory Theatre showcasing both seasoned thespians and rising stars through the Remus Youth Theatre.
Each season I enjoy a diverse selection of productions from this theatre which has been in operation for over 70 years.
Maitland Musical Society will also have you dancing in your seat. From classics to modern Broadway the entire family can enjoy their productions and have you humming tunes weeks after a performance.
Creative expression of all kinds is abundant in Maitland. Whether you want to dive right in and see it all or just take a quick look at a few over a coffee.
Story by Genevieve Graham