Coastal creatives: Surf Coast art flourishes
Victoria’s Surf Coast has inspired photographers, designers and artists of all kinds.
Stewart Guthrie has lived on Victoria’s Surf Coast for almost two decades. His patch is an expansive 38 acres of green rolling hills, just a few kilometres from Bells Beach.
Ten years ago friends asked Stewart, who lives and works on the property producing timber wine cases and promotional boxes, if they could use one of his sheds to make furniture.
Today Ashmore Arts is home to three workshops and 16 purpose-built weatherboard studios that take design cues from Brighton’s bathing boxes. Inhabitants range from visual artists and graphic designers to ceramicists, furniture makers, film producers and animators.
“I never set out to establish this creative precinct, as such. We were just going to live and work on the property,” Stewart says. “A few people started requesting workshops, so we built a couple and it really flourished from there ... We now have a waiting list because we can’t keep up with the demand.”
Earlier this year the Regional Australia Institute conducted a study, based on 2016 census data, which found the Surf Coast local government area – stretching from Torquay and Jan Juc, past Anglesea to Aireys Inlet and Lorne – had the highest proportion of creative jobs in country Victoria.
Byron Bay in northern NSW topped the list of the most creative regional centres in Australia, but the Surf Coast was the fourth-largest hot spot in the country for employment in creative industries.
The Surf Coast also ranked in the top three for regional employees in architecture, design and visual arts and made the top five for advertising and marketing. Stewart isn’t surprised. “For a long time Torquay and surrounds have been dominated by the surf industry but always bubbling beneath... has been this creative art and design scene that has only recently become more commercialised.”