By Dr Marian Quigley
Chances are, you’ve visited Phillip Island at least once and enjoyed many of its much-lauded
‘natural attractions’ - but are you aware of its thriving arts community?
Although Phillip Island is home to over 400 visual artists (of 5000 Gippsland artists); their
work has not always had optimal public visibility. This situation is beginning to change with
the recent formation of a group dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art; the
establishment of new studios/galleries and a permanent home for the local art society;
increased public art; and the construction of a new Cowes Cultural Centre, including a
curated community gallery.
The Arts Society of Phillip Island Region (formerly the Artists Society of Phillip Island) has
provided wonderful support for its 200 members for over 20 years. Each of its two annual
art exhibitions over Easter and Cup Weekends attracts approximately 1000 locals and
visitors. ASPIR also offers its members a variety of regular workshops despite its lack of a
ASPIR Easter Exhibition 2023
The Phillip Island Contemporary Exhibition Space (PICES) was formed in 2019 with the aim of establishing a high-quality, contemporary exhibition space (hopefully to be fulfilled by the forthcoming Cultural Centre gallery). PICES has run four annual curated Pop Up exhibitions in January, featuring work by local Gippsland and Melbourne artists. These have proved highly successful, also prompting new initiatives, including the ‘Hoard’ Pop-Up project, curated by PICES and funded by the Bass Coast Shire Council, in which enlarged images of works by 28 PICES artists are displayed on the hoarding in front of the Cultural Centre development site.
Plans are currently underway for an exhibition of PICES members’ work in the Meeniyan Art Gallery in nearby South Gippsland. This gallery holds monthly group exhibitions by Gippsland artists.
Apart from these not-for-profit community groups, Phillip Island has a long-established commercial gallery situated at the entrance to Cowes. Mingara Gallery features contemporary artwork by Gippsland and Melbourne artists.
Leeson Street Gallery, Cowes, is an artist-run studio/gallery which has regular solo/group exhibitions by Phillip Island artists, including the owner Peter Walker. Mosaics by the Bay is located in Ventnor, where Phillip Island artist Heather Fahnle runs mosaic workshops at her home studio:
Other artist studio galleries that are occasionally open to the public include those of painter and sculptor Bill Binks in Surf Beach; Diana Bannister at Shearwater Studio, Cape Woolamai and Iluka Studio Gallery, Silverleaves, the home of renowned traditional watercolour artists David Taylor and Diana Edwards.
More recent initiatives in Phillip Island include Clay and Co, a studio/workshop/gallery space featuring work by the owner, ceramicist Kaz Morton. The venue also holds exhibitions by local artists.
Pyramid Rock Gallery is another new venue in Thompson Avenue, Cowes, run by a local artist. It features work by local artists, including the late metal sculptor DAK whose public sculptures can be seen in various Island locations. The owner also offers art classes.
A little further afield -
ArtSpace Wonthaggi holds monthly exhibitions of work by Phillip Island and Gippsland
artists. It also hosts an annual ‘Winter Solstice’ award exhibition in July.
Bass Coast Artists Society, Wonthaggi runs regular workshops and activities for its
Corinella and District Community Centre holds an annual art exhibition for Gippsland artists
during the Queen's Birthday weekend in June.
In addition, annual art exhibitions for charity are held in Inverloch (Easter weekend) - Inverloch Art Show
and Kernot (Cup weekend) - Kernot Art Prize.
If travelling to Wilsons Promontory, pay a visit to Stockyard Gallery, Foster which holds
regular exhibitions for Gippsland artists.
For further information on arts in the Bass Coast Shire, visit their website.