Pat and Mick Waters did NOT do exactly as their 6 month business studies course suggested. They were mature-age students – Pat, a practising artist and TAFE art teacher with 30 years experience, and Mick, a fine arts craftsman. They certainly learnt from the course, building on promotional and marketing skills acquired over the years, but they made conscious lifestyle choices in their new business venture.
Established for 5 years now, in pretty Briagolong, Victoria, a tiny Gippsland town nestled in the foothills of the ‘Great Divide’ the Briagolong School of Fine Art targets largely women seeking life enrichment, not people wanting qualifications. They aim to train students to a professional exhibiting standard and many of their students are now exhibiting in regional and city galleries as well as the school’s own small gallery in the township.
The Briagolong School of Fine Art offers:
1)Painting and drawing classes – 3 x 8 week terms – for both beginners and advanced students;
2) Gallery tours to Canberra & Melbourne with an expert guide;
3)8 day Flinders Ranges painting & drawing trips May-June each year;
4)Overseas ‘Art & Culture Tours’ – Spain in 2004, France & Italy in 2005, Spain again in 2006;
5)Five day Summer Schools in January
6)Art equipment, easels, canvases made to order, fine art framing.
This may appear to be ‘having too many irons in the fire’ – but the activities
are interlinked and one feeds the other, for example, summer school participants are often interested in the overseas study tours and Mick makes canvases for the students and frames their pictures.
Pat and Mick based their business venture on Pat’s talent, teaching skills and reputation. They decided against recommendations to run night classes for lifestyle reasons, although there was a market for these and for weekend classes. It simply demanded too much of Pat’s personal painting time (Pat exhibits frequently in Gippsland and Melbourne).
Two townspeople have supported the Fine Art School with low cost premises and now a cluster of arts workers is evolving. Two wood designers have nearby premises and a craft outlet is planned next door.
The town’s businesses appreciate the summer schools which bring in well-known Melbourne artists, such as printmaker Juli Haas, plus 50-60 students to work with them.
The greatest hurdle Pat and Mick faced was possibly the fact that Pat was tired. There was no break between retiring from TAFE, the 6 month Business Studies course and starting up, so the plain hard work of the first two years was difficult.
They have faced up to the need to promote – advertising Summer Schools and trips in the three major national art magazines – and have had success with responses from Tas, NSW, New Zealand, Queensland and Thailand! Word of mouth is really working well for them now….Summer School students are really tempted by the trips, the people…….the Briagolong ambience.
The school is doing its bit for regional tourism – Melbourne visitors get a tantalising taste of country Gippsland.
FOR MORE INFO: www.briagolong.net/fineart
CURRENT EXHIBITION: Pat Waters’ “Iberia” inspired by the 2004 trip to Spain and Portugal at the Cowwarr Art Space, Cowwarr, till 12 September 2005.