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Growing a local creative hub

During last year’s strategy consultation many people highlighted the need for local hubs.  Margaret Burgess describes how she grew one from a small business venture…..

Paxton’s in Mackay was established to fill a need within our cultural landscape. Being a long term artist and living in a more sports orientated than arts focused community, I was facing the struggles of isolation, creative community disunity, and a very bleak creative future unless I moved south.  I realised if I was feeling this, so were other artists within the region. What we needed was a grass roots cultural hub, to unite local artisans/creatives, and invite and welcome the community to come and get involved with us. ‘Linking Art, Artists and Community’ is my mission statement.  Hence the birth of Paxton’s Creative Space and The Upstairs Gallery.

Over the past two years Paxton’s has established itself as a vibrant creative community located in the 1880’s built wharf warehouse situated on the Pioneer River. The opportunity arose to lease a portion of this property after I walked into it, and thought WOW, what a great space for an art gallery.  It is now a destination for tourists, to explore what our cultural community has to offer, and a home for local creatives to market their work within the two gallery spaces and The Out of The Boxshop, a creative space that hosts regular classes, and workshops, a Little Peoples Learning Gallery for art education for those under 12, a market held every eight weeks, and The Creative Mackay Expo held annually.

After exhausting all my resources I have managed to build, and maintain this venture financially by:

  • renting out spaces in The Out Of The Boxshop which now has another outlet at the Mackay Tourism Visitors Information Centre,
  • selling market sites,
  • renting the galleries for exhibitions,
  • hiring out The Creative Space to artists to conduct classes
  • organising and hosting art and design related functions in The Upstairs Gallery,
  • some financial sponsorship from local business in return for promotion and advertising on our printed material, and the original RADF concept development grant, and three RADF grants for workshops.

This venture would not have made it through its first year, without embracing all local creatives who wanted to be involved. Through the creative community at Paxton’s,  we have established a strong creative presence and are now engaging our community, and tourists with local art and artist. Artists involved with this venture are earning income through teaching, bookings, commissions and  sales. We have an open door policy, and welcome all artisans across all strands. Engaging community and offering them something different is paramount to our survival.

We have used some creative approaches to our marketing strategies, including a community project to yarn bomb the building, with 2000 balls of wool knitted and crocheted into 220sqm of rugs.  It was  rewarding to see cars and caravans, cars, motorbikes, buses of people pulling up to take photos. This project in particular demonstrated our ability to undertake large projects and engage community to become involved, with over 90 people attending knitting bees or knitting at home and sending in their work, along with schools and nursing homes becoming involved in the project too. Since this project we have noted a huge increase in enquiries and foot traffic. It was worth it.

Keep an eye out for our next big project.

Margaret Burgess is the one of eleven children, she was born in Mackay in 1961.  Her childhood was troubled and it was through her painting she found direction with her life. Margaret’s iconic pictures reflect life growing up in a regional centre. Her use of transparent paint laying techniques gives her work a luminosity that is captivating to the viewer. Her works have won awards around Queensland. Her passion also extends into sculpture and installation work.   Margaret’s love of her community has lead her to dedicated her time into developing Paxton’s Creative Space and The Upstairs Gallery.




Feature image:  Margaret Burgess, Photo by Daniel Battly, ABC Open