A slice of industrial Thebarton has found unlikely new life as a gallery that aims to bridge the gap between emerging and established artists.
Industrial transformation: West Gallery Thebarton
Margie Sheppard has had a long relationship with the industrial building in which she decided to locate her gallery, but it’s never been particularly intimate.
Gallery director and founder Margie Sheppard
She’s been co-owner of the site on West Thebarton Road for about 15 years, but rarely spent any time there. Instead it was the headquarters for her husband’s business, which manufactures safety instruments for cranes.
It wasn’t until earlier this year, well after her husband had sold out of the business, that Margie – a practicing artist – began spending any time on site. The change came about because she decided that amid the other tenants – the architects, the telecommunications brokers and the manufacturers – there was room for her to create an art gallery.
“I thought, ‘I could actually do this’,” says Margie.
“It was a huge leap for me, because I live up in Kangarilla on a farm. I was tucked up there for a long time and it was a really quiet time. It was going into the unknown a lot.
“But, I kind of felt like I needed to show my work how I wanted it shown – not compromised or gallerists saying I don’t like that or do more of what you were doing before, we don’t want that new stuff.”
West Gallery Thebarton is located at 32 West Thebarton Road, Thebarton. The next show, Mirrorstate, will open on February 16.
Far from being just a place to house her own work, Margie’s intentions for West Gallery are about creating a community and opportunity for artists who often struggle to find ways to get their work exhibited.
“My big interest is in print making,” she says. “There’s a lot of print makers out there and there’s a lot of print making activity in Adelaide and I think they’re not getting any air.
“Naturally, we’ll also get maybe some emerging artists in the mix who want to show but don’t have a gallery. But also, I’m in my 60s so I would expect to get people who have been working away for a while showing here too.”
The gallery space – located on an upper level of the unyieldingly plain industrial building – also lends itself to the exhibition of sculpture and larger works.
To create the light-filled and polished interior that sits at the top of the stairs now, a major transformation was required.
“It was unpainted throughout and there were pipes going through the centre of that room, it had pipes all down that wall which have been covered by a dry wall,” says Magie.
“We’ve hidden a lot of that stuff. And then we painted the pipe we couldn’t hide and made it look neat and tidy. And then of course there was the lighting and all the walls.”
The industrial nature of the building hasn’t been completely consumed by the gallery.
Exposed pipes in the ceiling and polished concrete floors hark back to the space’s origins, while a studio space out the back means its history as a hub of production will live on – just on a smaller scale.
“I’m trying to keep my own work going here,” says Margie. “I have a studio out the back and I’m hoping to be able to do a bit of work there as well, just some painting. I have a press and a really messy, fabulous studio at home.”
Working with friend and artist Christobel Kelly on curating shows, Margie has her calendar of 2017 exhibitions already lined up and is working on exhibitions for 2018.
While she points out that running a gallery is precarious, Margie’s willingness to embrace the unknown means there’s a new kind of life in this building, and a little bit more life in Adelaide’s art scene too.