Nestled in the heart of suburban north Sydney, Workshop Art Centre & Ewart Gallery (WAC) is always a nice a surprise for the first-time visitors. Surrounded by trees, flowers and a peaceful and friendly neighbourhood, the warehouse-turned art centre has been the source of inspiration and incubator of artistic expression for the local residents for over fifty years.
In one typical Sydney Spring afternoon, I had the pleasure to walk into this historical building and audited a children’s drawing class tutored by the Chinese Australian artist and art teacher Madame Xiao Minhong. And this proved to be a rare opportunity for someone who has little hand-on experience with fine art to peek into the originality of artistic creation.
It was a long and peaceful afternoon, but this humble top level attic was flooded with generous spring sunshine and the tunes of classical music in the background. There were six school-age children drawing still life in pencil or charcoal from a set of glasses and jars on a cloth-covered table. Xiao was an experienced and attentive teacher. She would go around the room, inspect each work and point out the highlights or problems with each of the works. Occasionally, she would sit down in front of the drawing stand and exemplify the techniques. All the children came from local Chinese families but spoke very Aussie English, because, as one could imagine, they might have been born in Australia. And such is very common with the children from Chinese Australian families living in the north Sydney. All the children were very serious about their work and did exactly what the teacher said. As the time flew, I could almost visualise there was something growing inside these tender hearts. Maybe a feeling called art?
WAC is not a high art institution, but it exists among the people and provides a place for them to get hand dirty and feel the real joy of making art across all genres, no matter if you are well trained or just have the technique of a three-year-old. All are welcome, at least to spend some good time in a spring afternoon.
The Workshop Arts Centre (WAC) is an independent not-for-profit art centre and workshop facility established by the late artist and art teacher Joy Ewart in 1961 to promote and foster appreciation in the creative and visual arts. The current premises at 33 Laurel Street (Willoughby) was renovated from a disused furrier’s warehouse in 1963 and has remained the home of the Workshop Arts Centre ever since.
Almost fifty years after its inception, the Workshop Arts Centre became the home of creativity for artists of all ages – from children to adults, offering classes in painting, drawing, ceramics, life drawing, photography, printmaking, jewellery, botanical art, sculpture and children’s art from over 30 professional exhibiting artists and art teachers.