Review: Art and culture walking tour showcases St Kilda’s creative credentials
Tap into St Kilda's arty vibe on this guided visit to an eclectic selection of the Melbourne seaside enclave's galleries and artist studios. You'll meet local creatives and curators and find out what makes them tick.
Like me, you’ve probably looked at lots of paintings in art galleries and wondered, ‘What was their inspiration?’
Wouldn’t it be great if you could actually ask the artist for the story behind the art? On a St Kilda art and culture walking tour with St Kilda Art Tours, that’s exactly what you can do.
The bohemian beachside suburb of St Kilda has been central to Melbourne’s art scene for decades. It continues to be home to artists producing a wide range of work; everything from modern art, Indigenous works, sculpture and illustration, to mixed media and photography. That said, it’s no surprise that St Kilda has around a dozen art galleries, all within a couple of kilometres of each other. And that makes them perfect for exploring on foot.
Tour architect Violet Browne — who has worked in the art space for many years, both on the business side and as a curator — was inspired to create an art tour of the suburb after she realised most people who visited galleries and exhibitions engaged more with the art when they could hear the stories behind the works and meet the artists. Her small group walking tours typically visit five or six galleries. Some are hidden away down backstreets and might easily be missed, while others are private studios and not open to the general public.
Gallery exhibitions change regularly so there’s always something new to see, even if you’ve visited any of the galleries before. The exact route and content of each tour varies depending on what’s on and what’s open at the time. But the opportunity to engage with artists and gallery curators is a constant feature.
The tour usually begins at Space2b — an art and design social enterprise that was established around five years ago. It supports asylum seekers, refugees, and newly arrived migrants seeking to achieve financial independence. They are matched with Australian mentors to develop craft skills, and the result is a fabulously colourful store filled with handmade homewares, clothing and jewellery. Space2b also hosts small art exhibitions.
From there, you might take in the Vivien Anderson Gallery — one of Melbourne’s premier galleries for Indigenous art, the Jackman Gallery — a major contemporary gallery that sources works by some of Australia’s most innovative emerging talents, or the light-filled Brightspace — where exhibitions of the work of local artists are staged regularly.
A defining characteristic of the tour is the unrivalled access it provides to artists at work in their studios. At Artist’s Studio 106, resident artists generously give their time to welcome tour participants. Sebastian Steensen, Tamar Dolev and Selva Veeriah are among the artists you may meet. They will happily show works in progress and discuss their inspiration for the same.
There’s also an opportunity to meet the multi-talented artist, actor and gallery owner, Stan Yarramunua at Art Yarramunua Gallery, and browse the artworks and homewares on offer at Storehouse.
The tour takes three to four hours, but the distance covered is reasonably short — around 1.2 kilometres — ensuring walking time is minimised and art-admiring time is maximised. By keeping the tour group sizes small and featuring an extensive array of artworks, Violet ensures there’ll be something that sparks your interest and that curators and artists will have plenty of time for everyone. There’s no waiting with your hand tentatively raised in the hope that you might be picked to ask a question.
The tour is suitable for art scene novices and those with a more experienced eye. Aspiring artists can ask for tips on techniques and materials directly from the professionals as they work. You’ll walk away with a deeper appreciation for the art, and responses to all your questions that would otherwise go unanswered.
Louise Reynolds made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world — and has so far visited around 30 countries across five continents and the Pacific. A hopeless Francophile, she has a particular love for France, its language and pretty much all things French. Louise’s favourite way to see the world is on foot and her boots have taken her walking on famous trails in Europe, South America and New Zealand. She also has a passion for her home state of Victoria and loves exploring its diverse regions.