Over the next three months, the Ferntree Gully Arts Society is bringing art and the community together to experience a very different exhibition in the windows and on the walls of the local Ferntree Gully Village traders.
‘We’re so grateful to all the businesses here for getting involved so enthusiastically in this project,’ explained Shirley Dougan, the Arts Society’s President. ‘It’s been really exciting to see so many of them jump on board and turn part of their business into this wonderful and unique open-air exhibition space.’
The Society’s artists were invited to create artworks on the theme of Australian native flora and fauna, to reflect the village’s location in the foothills of the beautiful Dandenong Ranges.
‘We gave our artists free rein to bring their favourite piece of Australian nature to everyone, and to choose any medium or style they wanted,’ Shirley said. ‘There’s nothing more fascinating and enchanting than artists expressing themselves without restraint. We’re hoping everyone else will be caught up in that same excitement.’
When does the Trail start?
The Foothills Art Trail begins on 30 July and runs through to 29 October. There will be a wide range of artworks to discover in shop windows and inside on shop walls. And the art displays will be changed around often, so there will be new works to discover each time you visit.
The Society’s Kids and Teens students were also challenged to create artworks for the Trail. Their brightly coloured masterpieces have been incorporated into some of the poster signage you will see in the windows.
Shirley, a long-time artist herself, believes more people are now taking an interest in art, both as viewers and participants. Art sales generally seem to have increased over the pandemic months.
‘I think people are being more thoughtful about what they buy and the quality of it,’ she said. ‘Social media has helped connect people directly with artists and their work and that’s great. Mind you, visiting galleries like ours is also a good thing,’ she added with a smile.
Inspiration for the Trail
Being part of a community means supporting each other whenever we can – and that is what the Foothills Art Trail is all about. It is an opportunity to bring people, businesses and the arts together in one place and continue building the vital connections that make up our local community.
The last 15 months have been hard for everyone, learning to cope with a new way of life. The Covid-19 pandemic certainly made many people more aware of the importance of their local community as restrictions limited their movements closer to the home base.
Those same restrictions inspired others to get creative, to paint and draw, as a way to occupy their time and minds and deal with lockdown isolation.
The pandemic also hit local traders hard. They faced huge challenges to sustain their businesses and keep household shelves stocked, services running and families fed. They have shown remarkable resilience in the face of these challenges.
Art lifts the spirits – art connects
Shirley hopes the Art Trail project will lift the spirits of people in the community.
‘During the Big Lockdown of 2020 it was the small things that helped keep us going – the walks, board games, backyard birdlife, jigsaw puzzles and art.’
‘I’ve noticed lately that people in shops are up for a chat. It’s adding to my conviction that everyone wants to make connections and is looking for something more substantial in their lives. I hope the artwork will provide at the very least some talking points and perhaps
generate some new connections between people who might not otherwise communicate.’
Follow the Trail
You can follow the Foothills Art Trail using the map, or just take a wander through the local village streets any time. If you see a particular artwork you like, you can find more details on the Trail website.
Each work will also have its own QR code for scanning to take you straight to extra information.
You can find out more about the Art Trail, its artists and traders at the Hut Gallery website. You can also find updates on the Arts Society’s Facebook and Instagram pages (#thehutgallery and #foothillsart).
Hidden in plain sight
Long term locals know that their Village has always fostered art, but visitors might be surprised to learn about a few artworks already hidden throughout the Village.
Most people are aware of the redgum Swagman, who sits contemplating the traffic light changes by the Alpine Street railway crossing. He’s actually the second Swaggie there, having replaced the original ‘Down on his Luck’ chap who sadly succumbed to insect rot. That first pine sculpture came from the huge pine tree that had marked the railway crossing since the early days.
But there are even bigger works seemingly hidden in plain sight around this little neighbourhood.
Have you noticed the forest of trees at the end of Station Street? What about the horse and wagon in The Avenue, or the Forest Road party scene? And you have to search the carparks closely if you want to find out what’s big about 1974!