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Phil Smith, Nina Shadforth, Jo Duke and Cr Rick Baberowski at Caloundra Regional Gallery.

A CREATIVE area. A place of inquiring minds and stimulating expression. That’s how the Sunshine Coast has been long regarded.

Some big events have been held in this naturally beautiful part of Queensland with live music performances by international acts as well as it being home to vibrant live theatre and performances.

It’s the same with art. It feeds our soul and those who understand history can express themselves with beauty, passion and humour.

So many names – Betty Pugh, Chris Postle, Hal Barton, Kevin Oxley, John Milenkovic, Pam Walpole, Elizabeth Duguid, Nicole Voevodin-Cash and Blair McNamara, along with surrealists Kim Guthrie and Lisa Adams.



Mother Tennis by Michael Cook.

Michael Cook has his work in the National Gallery of Australia, and has donated a large collection to the Caloundra gallery.

Glass artist Peter Goss had his work presented to Queen Elizabeth II at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games, potter Ian Grieve had his work exhibited in Japan.

Merton Chambers and Anita Aarons were driving forces behind the establishment of the Noosa Regional Gallery in the 1980s.

Now showing at Caloundra Regional Gallery is work by ceramacist Johanna DeMaine: the form, the function, the aesthetic exhibition.

Renowned artist Charles Blackman, one of the most talented painters to emerge in Australia since World War II, lived at Buderim in the 1980s.

Blackman was introduced to the area by his good friend James Birrell, an architect who lived near the Maroochy River. The artist moved to Buderim to escape the Sydney winters and the bushland property is said to have inspired his famed Waterfall series of paintings.

Caloundra Regional Gallery collections curator Nina Shadforth said the landscapes of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, the Glass House Mountains and stretches of pristine beaches, have long been the source of inspiration for artists to set up camp and paint en-plein air to then return to their studios with sketches and inspiration in hand.

“They’d then work up their ambitions in paint or watercolour, to finished works of art. Notable Australian artists to have painted in the region include James Gleeson, Brett Whitely and Ian Fairweather.

Living artist, Lawrence Daws, set up his studio to permanently work and reside in among the landscape and was like a magnet to other artists to come and stay and immerse one-self in art. In the last few decades, the Sunshine Coast has produced Archibald and Wynne Prize finalists, and the profile and creative output by local artists such as Peter Hudson, Colin Passmore and Jandamarra Cadd.


Jack Charlton and Jandamarra Cadd

Artist Jandamarra Cadd with actor Uncle Jack Charlton and his Archibald Prize entry. Photo: Caloundra Regional Gallery

“Before Caloundra Regional Gallery was built in 2000; and yes, this year is its 20th anniversary, art prizes around the region were a staple means of exhibiting and showcasing the region’s talent.

“In my time here on the Sunshine Coast I’ve been involved in each of the regional galleries; the Noosa Regional Gallery, the Caloundra Regional Gallery and the Butter Factory in Cooroy, and I have observed artists working in all manner of creative pursuits. And in more recent years, the development of opportunities for arts workers and supporters, including philanthropists has evolved as the new normal in terms of the region’s creative enterprise and growth, for example start-ups and the art x tech movement.

“The establishment of creative organisations such as the Sunshine Coast Creative Alliance and recent Sunshine Coast Arts Board and Sunshine Coast Arts Foundation, council initiatives, will enable the growth of the arts scene further. The Council’s 20 year Arts Plan for example provides for more public art and a new regional gallery.

“The establishment of the Sunshine Coast Art Prize, 15 years ago, has earned this now prestigious and acquisitive art award and the Sunshine Coast desirability on Australia’s cultural map. This is evidenced by a vibrant creative community, thriving public art galleries, pop-up residencies in vacant spaces and a public art trail of wondrous murals by local and visiting artists.

“We are also earning national regard for our ephemeral environmental art festivals like Floating Land and Treeline. Both of these are known for their site-specific artworks that touch sensitive global environmental issues and their collaboration with international practitioners. Creative consumers coming from beyond the region for a unique Sunshine Coast immersive and meaningful arts experience.’’


Peter Hudson artist

Artist Peter Hudson: Photo: Caloundra Regional Gallery

Caloundra Regional Gallery director Jo Duke said working in regional towns in north east Queensland had enabled her to understand the importance of the arts and cultural offerings for communities.

“Regions such as the Sunshine Coast need to tell a story to enable the building of a community but also to attract visitors.

“The Sunshine Coast is home to well know international and national artists who contribute to the soul of the arts community.

“Significant new developments in our region; the expansion of the airport, the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, a new city centre at Maroochydore, the largest residential development project in Australia – Aura, at Caloundra South with 30,000 people expected to move in over the next 30 years, the delivery of the Caloundra CBD Masterplan, will stimulate a demand for arts and cultural programming to meet the needs of our residents and visitors.

“People already travel to the Sunshine Coast to experience leading national exhibitions at the gallery like the Sunshine Coast Art Prize.

“The development of the Sunshine Coast Arts Plan 2018-2038 provides us with a strategic map and a 20-year vision to create a new and exciting future for the arts in the region. In a creatively rich environment like the Sunshine Coast, we embrace all art forms in everyday life and this plan is a significant step in creating the space for artistic enterprise, while acknowledging its role in understanding and interpreting our vision for the region.’’

Sunshine Coast Council deputy mayor and community portfolio member Cr Rick Baberowski, reflecting on the end of the Sunshine Coast Daily’s print edition, said he was also absorbing the news that the Federal Government was proposing to massively increase the cost and debt faced by university students studying the arts and humanities.

In doing so, it would effectively price many students pursuing those subjects out of Australia’s universities, he said.

“To me, these developments both seem like part of a worrying trend in which those who seek to question authority, critique our culture or explore what it is to be human are becoming marginalised and disempowered.

“As we gathered in our Caloundra Regional Gallery for this article, I was reminded just how diminished our lives would be without those people who give a life in the arts a red hot go, as our lives will be diminished without the kind of journalism that print newspapers have historically made possible.

“The message from our government and business leaders to artists, thinkers and journalists seems to be the same: “get a real job”.

“We need to show them that many Australians don’t agree, and to support local artists, writers, historians and journalists however we can in this challenging era.”


Phil Smith and Ken Munsie

Creative Arts Alliance chair Phil Smith and Ken Munsie. Photo: Caloundra Regional Gallery.

Sunshine Coast Creative Arts Alliance chair Phil Smith believes 20/20 vision is not enough to take in the broad spectrum of the arts scene – it should be 40/40 vision – and that every moment can feel like an exciting point of change.

“The past 40 years has seen our arts and cultural community form itself.

“It has emerged from an arts and crafts community with a small collection of practicing and part-time artists, initially driven by our first waves of retirees.

“They crafted our audiences, fund raised and built venues and largely laid our – now ageing – foundational arts infrastructure.

“Significant population growth, lifestyle drivers and technology have brought demographic change.

“We’ve begun to listen to celebrate our First Nations people as keepers of knowledge and local story through the work of key indigenous artists.

“We now have a rich array of nationally recognised visual artists, producers, architects, ceramicists and musicians who call the Sunshine Coast home.

“Most of them earn their money elsewhere but draw inspiration for their creative practice from this place, this community.”

“The Australian Research Council and QUT Research Centre has identified the Sunshine Coast as one of this country’s ‘classic regional hotspots’ for cultural and creative activity.

“This research recognises the value in the recent broadening of the arts sector into a broader cultural and creative community.

“It’s hard to exist anywhere in Australia as an artist, but it is starting to feel like we have a viable and autonomous creative scene here.

“Many artists now work as creative practitioners across a number of other sectors – health, development and construction and tourism – sectors that underpin our local economy.

“Young artists will continue to and must leave the Coast to build their knowledge and careers.

“But what has changed in the last 10 years is that entrepreneurial artists across the generational spectrum are moving to the Coast, returning back home or staying here.

“They are networking and practicing locally and revelling in the ‘space’ and inspiration of place they find in a regional community, while building online platforms and collaborating around the world.

“Like the past 40 years, the next 40 years will be defined by the change of population growth.

“By 2040, the combined population of Noosa and Sunshine Coast Local Government Areas (approximately 410,000) is projected to peak at around 680,000.

“Our community will be more culturally diverse, our cities and villages will be more compact and better connected and hopefully our landscape and supporting eco-systems will be healthier and more abundant.

“As it has been throughout every cultural renaissance in history, these conditions are perfect for cultivating a rich arts and cultural life.

“But to capitalise on these conditions we will need to more than double our current investment in the arts.

“In a time when politicians see the arts as ‘non-essential’ services, this will mean a shift from government investment to increased community, philanthropic and business investment in the arts.

“Our local superstar artists will reinvest their capital in developing local artists and new businesses, but they will continue to provoke and criticise power and foolishness, explore ideas and celebrate people and life.

“And if we all embrace our own creativity, then over the next 40 years the Sunshine Coast community should have developed a sense of who we are and our place in the world.”


The Future of the Arts on the Sunshine Coast

Jennifer Radbourne1

Professor Jennifer Radbourne and ceramacist Johanna DeMaine with: the form, the function, the aesthetic exhibition. Photo: Caloundra Regional Gallery

We could not live in a more special place – long sandy beaches, water to swim in or paddle on, lush green mountains and iconic views encompassing recent and ancient history, places to walk or hike and rest, and gastronomic delights grown locally or cooked such that taste buds soar in satisfaction. This is, of course, the Sunshine Coast, and what we are known for.

But that is not all, and maybe not even the way our identity is created. It is the arts that define our identity and bring about a creative and vibrant community.

They embody the values of our community. They foster creativity and innovation and are essential to a productive society. They are central to community resilience, supporting social and community involvement.

The arts bring people together for shared enjoyment, creative expression and meaning, and have a powerful and transformative impact on the region.

In the recent coronavirus lockdown which has devastated the arts and cultural sector across Australia and the world, artists have been among the first to give their time, delivering spontaneous performances on balconies and rooftops, and amazing performances online, alone and together.

Many communities have turned to the arts for comfort, reassurance and entertainment during isolation.

Here on the Sunshine Coast we have found exhibitions, artist talks, literary events and performances online, often filmed in a place we know – the beach, the mountains, the botanic gardens.

This is why we live in this special place – a region where the local government practices its vision to be Australia’s Healthy, Smart, Creative region.

Local governments are close to their community and here on the Sunshine Coast, close to artists, arts managers, art spaces and audiences.

The past four to five years have seen a huge step forward in our region – our “place”.

A momentum that now cannot be stopped.

Council is committed as a leader to the Arts with the establishment of the region’s first Arts Advisory Board in 2016 with the recruitment of local and national members bringing experience, expertise and ideas to the 20 year vision for arts and culture in the region.

It approved the first 20 year Arts Plan based on deep consultation with artists who are now engaged in their future. Council’s Horizon Festival has grown exponentially bringing a new audience to the region.

The existing Creative Alliance organisation has won the contract to disperse State Government funds locally, and, under direction from Council, the Arts Advisory Board developed the first Sunshine Coast Arts Foundation to engage donors in the sustainability and prosperity of the arts across the region.

In the past two years our region has made a bold and significant move to plan, grow, strengthen and showcase the local arts sector.

The collaboration between Council, all levels of government, the arts sector, our community and investors has ensured a new identity for the arts and culture on the Sunshine Coast. Achievements include:

  • The Refinery program – a collaborative effort to deliver the region’s first ever creative incubator program;
  • the Creative Spaces initiative – a digital platform which brings together available creative spaces and residencies for artists to access, making the Sunshine Coast one of the first ever regional areas to offer this platform;
  • the award winning Horizon Festival which goes from strength to strength, building a curatorial framework that puts the spotlight on local, national and international arts and cultural producers, delighting audiences of all ages, as well as gaining industry recognition in 2018 winning a national award for Best Achievement in Marketing, Communication or Sponsorship and in 2019 being named as one of five national finalists for Best Regional event;
  • the continued rise in the reputation of the Regional Gallery, through its diverse and respected exhibition and public programs, and its flagship exhibition, the Sunshine Coast Art Prize;
  • the development of the Regional Arts Infrastructure Framework to identify a viable, integrated and highly functional network of built infrastructure to respond to the arts and cultural needs of the Sunshine Coast (local government area) community as it grows into a major region of 500,000 people;
  • the redesign of Caloundra’s disused transit centre as a subtropic arts studio in Caloundra’s CBD;
  • the scoping and investigation of a new Regional Gallery at Caloundra as part of the Caloundra Creative Hub master plan, and a new arts-experience and environment-based cultural facility in the hinterland;
  • developed the ArtsCoast brand strategy to promote local art and artists on a regional, national and international scale;
  • instigated research, in partnership with the Sunshine Coast Arts Foundation, on a region-wide market and audience development study to grow and strengthen arts organisations and artists; and
  • supported local artists and arts projects through grants to the value of $304,000.

These projects have empowered our artists and our audiences to believe in, and share, the vision of the Arts Advisory Board – The soul of our community is our flourishing arts ecology: nurturing connections, promoting experimentation and inspiring collaboration. Indeed, art and creativity are increasingly embedded in the identity and experience of the Sunshine Coast.

As the population grows, our transport system develops, our industries expand, the environment and place are embedded in ‘who we are’, and our economy thrives, the arts have become foundational to a new creativity and innovation that transcends the region.

– Emeritus Professor Jennifer Radbourne

Stiensen family home Felicity Cottage in Omrah Avenue Caloundra, ca 1960. Courtesy Picture Sunshine Coast.

Stiensen family home ‘Felicity Cottage’ in Omrah Avenue Caloundra, ca 1960. Courtesy Picture Sunshine Coast.

CaloundraRegionalGallery_BenVosProductions (3)

Caloundra Regional Gallery. Photo: Ben Vos Productions

4 comments on “Inspiration and Expression

  1. Bettina says:

    Good morning,

    Thanks for sharing this and putting it together so wonderfully!

    It’s definitively worth a drive to Caloundra to see!

    Have a great day,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. leavearly says:

      Thank you Bettina for the comments. The article is a “thank you” to Sunshine Coast artists through the past 40 years and a glimpse of what is to come in the next 40 years. The exhibition at Caloundra at the moment is by ceramacist Johanna DeMaine. One to watch out for is that by Michael Cook, who has donated much of his work to the gallery. This article is a celebration of Sunshine Coast art … hopefully an inspiration for those who appreciate art and for those who would like to express themselves in whatever medium …


  2. Greg Lawes says:

    You certainly live in a great part of the country!

    The picture that really caught my eye was the one with the girl on that tennis court in the middle of nowhere


    1. leavearly says:

      That’s for sure. The landscapes, seascapes and the sky cannot help but inspire. A natural attraction for curious people. And you are absolutely correct. The Michael Cook work catches the eye, draws you into the moment. What or who is the girl looking for? Michael has a gift of enticing the viewer into the conversation. He also has a beguiling story to tell about his own life.


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