Art gallery and gift shop to open soon at Wild Learning in West Cessnock

EXCITED: Emmie Hallett hangs one of Valerie Maude's paintings in the gallery that will open soon at Wild Learning. Picture: Krystal Sellars
EXCITED: Emmie Hallett hangs one of Valerie Maude's paintings in the gallery that will open soon at Wild Learning. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Sometimes if you want something done, you just have to do it yourself.

Emmie Hallett believes so strongly that Cessnock should have an art gallery that she's putting her own "blood, sweat, tears and coins" into creating one.

With face-to-face classes postponed during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Wild Learning founder used the time to convert the front section of the West Cessnock hall into an art gallery and gift shop, which is set to open next month.

The idea came from a pre-COVID meeting about the arts in Cessnock, following the closure of the town's art gallery in December.

Ms Hallett said she's not trying to "replicate" the former gallery - which hosted a range of local and touring exhibitions - but provide an opportunity for the community to celebrate local art.

She is planning to launch the Tiny Wild Gallery in mid-August with a showcase of works from local artists and makers - and she's keen to hear from anyone who would like to be involved.

"This first community showcase will focus on local, affordable and beautiful art," Ms Hallett said.

"I am seeking works from artists and creatives who live and work in and around Cessnock and lower Hunter Valley.

"This showcase is open to experienced and emerging artists - and there is also a category for children and young people to display work."

Ms Hallett plans to host two community showcases a year, which (COVID restrictions pending) will include opening celebrations, market days, talks and workshops.

By displaying affordable pieces (priced at $350 and under), she hopes to help generate a new art-buying movement in the area.

Outside of the house show periods, the Tiny Wild Gallery will be available for hire by artists and groups to run their own shows.

"This way there will be a local space in town to showcase art - and always something new and inspiring to see when you are at Wild Learning," Ms Hallett said.

The gift shop will stock locally-made creations, including face masks.

Any artists who are interested in being part of the launch showcase can email hello@wildlearning.com.au for more information.

Meanwhile, Cessnock City Council is continuing to investigate the opportunity to establish an art gallery at the Cessnock Performing Arts Centre building.

The art gallery would be located upstairs in the southern end of the building, which is now vacant after the recent relocation of Samaritans Information and Neighbourhood Centre.

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