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Stu Doherty brings art back home to Wauchope

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Wauchope Creative Hub is an Artistic Collective born from a COVID-19 turnaround

Many people have found a refuge and solution when they turned to art, and Stu Doherty is an example of someone who turned to art and found a new lease of life.

Stu is a Wauchope local who moved to Sydney to pursue a career in the fashion industry.

He worked as a fashion designer for 30 years specialising in menswear with some big labels including Morrissey, Trent Nathan and private labels for David Jones, Grace Bros and Myer.

He then moved into designing workwear, which was something new and interesting for him at that time. It meant testing fabrics and focusing on the more technical aspects of what goes into a piece of clothing. In the past ten years, if you have seen a uniform around you, it is very likely to have been designed by Stu. He has been involved in businesses like KingGee, Bisley, BUPA, Thrifty, NRMA, RACQ, Kennards Hire, and Sydney Trains and Buses.

As with many creative minds, sticking to just one single speciality can quickly becoming soul-numbing.

Designing only one specific style became monotonous and that got Stu thinking about what he could do next. He knew this was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, but he was also concerned that if he did not make a change, he would be sitting in his comfort zone forever.

The Light from the Pandemic

Then COVID-19 hit.

Stu was working for a big Sydney company who made uniforms for hundreds of different Australian businesses. When the contracts ended, nobody needed uniforms. Many companies could not even employ staff, let alone dress them up. This forced Stu to take a redundancy package and he sat around for a few months in Redfern where he lived, thinking this would blow over soon.

During the stifling boredom of the lockdown, Stu started painting again to find some relief.

At the same time, his family encouraged him to return home to Wauchope, so he did, and he continued painting there every day, and it became a way of life that gradually grew on him.

This was the start of the light that was brought about by the pandemic. It veered Stu off on a course that he would not otherwise have embarked on.

Artistic Origins

Stu had always been artistic.

He painted and did art in high school. When he was in fashion design college, he did life drawing and fashion illustration.

His love for art came from his mother, Marlene who was a craft and sewing teacher for over 40 years. She instilled in him a love for artistic creativity.

And so Stu started attending and selling paintings at the Artists Market in Port Macquarie. This caught people's attention and people started asking Stu if he taught painting. He used to work at the White House Institute, a fashion design and interior design college. He taught illustration there and had a background in education fundamentals.

These were the humble beginnings for his workshops at Out There Mosaics in Beechwood.

Controlling Water

Water colour is Stu’s favourite medium.

It is slow and gentle and suits his laid back personality. Stu may be an artist, but he is far from being wild and flamboyant. Stu is quite the opposite - calm, methodical and process driven.

For those who understand and appreciate the medium and behaviour of water colour, it is a beautifully slow process of building up of layers. It is not something you can splash on at one go and leave it to dry overnight and call it a day. Stu enjoys every single layer he applies, he waits to see how the colours behave and where they spread, how they unfurl or retract. It is very much a live, living process where you grow with the painting and the end result is like seeing the painting with new eyes.

It is not necessary to have formal training to get started on a water colour palette and a canvas. It is as much for people who want to explore their creativity or for those who favour a more therapeutic approach to relaxing with their paints.

Water colour uses different techniques and simply watching the water and colours move around on the paper with a mind of their own is rather mesmerising and even hypnotic.

Fun Fact: On rainy days, it is hard to paint with water colours because the paper feels too damp, so Stu plays around with mixed media and collage when it starts to pour! So check your weather forecast, and let the clouds tell you what medium to go for today!

Creating an Artistic Collective

The WAUCHOPE CREATIVE HUB will have a COVID-safe opening on Saturday, 10 July from 10 am till 4 pm at 87 Cameron Street, Wauchope with an inaugural visual art group show and exhibition titled Autumn75.

The Wauchope Creative Hub is an artistic collective formed by Stu and his sister, Christine. It grew from the Artists Market where he first started showcasing his work. Stu saw a need for a permanent space for fellow artists to display and sell their craft. A place that was not confined by climatic moodswings.

His commercial background came in handy, and it helped him to focus on the practicalities of his venture. He knew he needed something permanent, and he had to factor in how much 'stuff' artists had to lug around with them. From his days at the Artists Market, Stu knew what a burden it was to have to run around with a car full of paintings and gazebo.

Hard not to see it as providence, or perhaps the stars were in alignment, but it just so happened that an opportunity came along for Stu to rent an old industrial building on Cameron Street in Wauchope. It was a large, open space with a real rustic industrial country feel. It was basically, perfect. This was going to be a home for artists.

A Home for Artists

Artists are getting excited about this new space.

The space is split into three major sections, which are basically the same size as a market stall. Stu has about a dozen different arts and crafts people coming in. The building itself is being set up as a Not-for profit Co-operative, where individual artists take on the sale of their work. The hub itself is well located - an easy walk from the CBD and with plenty of parking space. Entrance is free.

A COVID-safe Opening will be held on the 10th of July from 10 am to 4 pm with a group exhibition of 25 local artists. Some of the exhibits include jewellery, three dimensional sculptures, water colour art, oil and acrylic paintings, embroidery just to name a few out of many other different techniques and mediums.

After the grand opening, the gallery will be open to the public. Artists and creative spirits are encouraged to come on board. The hub will be open six days a week initially, with the first exhibition set to run for 8 weeks.

Later, there will be more callouts for local artists to exhibit and hold different annual exhibitions throughout the year. The hub will provide artists with the space to display their art in a gallery for a length of time.

There are many ways for artists to get involved. Stu plans to have workshops conducted by artists with a diverse range of techniques. These workshops will be shown on their Facebook page and on the blackboard in the foyer at the hub. Stu wants to make it an open and friendly space, where people can just come in, check out what workshops are on offer and put their name down to reserve a spot.

This is going to be a space not just for professional artists, but also for anyone who is interested in art. Stu's vision is not to make art exclusive and out of reach. He wants to reach deep into the community and encourage everyone to tap into their creative side.

For Stu's beginners water colour class for example, he provides the materials people would need, simply because a beginner is not likely to have material or even know where to begin. So he is making is really easy and accessible, where all one needs to do is simply sign up and turn up. And roll up their sleeves and start painting! For those who do get bitten by the artistic bug, the hub has art supplies available for purchase as well, and Stu is a wonderfully generous spirit who does not mind having students come in and borrow a bit of his stuff as well!

Just Keep Painting

Fast forward 12 months and Stu would like to see the Wauchope Creative Hub full and packed with budding and professional artists.

Stu hopes to keep his core of original artists, see that they are making an income, and happy to be a part of the collective. He will continue to do the Artists Market, because he thinks it is an important fabric of the Port Macquarie cultural landscape and he enjoys it.

Stu wants to have more artists contributing with different unique art works and more exhibitions.

Ultimately, creating a real tourist destination is his dream. He envisions a place with all different types of workshops, a huge gallery space, and even have a creative studio. This could be heaven for any artist to make an obligatory stopover on an art tour around the world.

Art for the Community

The Wauchope Creative Hub gives artists an opportunity to display their work in a professional retail space.

It will give the artists a regular, secure space to display their art. Stu wants to bring back the respect for art, where artists can charge what their talent and effort deserve. In today's mass-produced-and-imported style of consuming, people are used to paying little and not thinking twice about what goes into creating something.

It is a challenge to place art right in the happy medium where it is not cheapened and neither is it made ultra exclusive. Stu wants to give artists a place where they can be proud to display what they have created, and where their families and friends can also be involved in by coming to their exhibitions. Artists are not shy hermits who create and hide away. They want to share what they have created with others and there is nothing more powerful than to have one's family walk in, point to an art work and proudly declare, 'My mom made this! Is she cool or what?' or 'That is my husband's work. I am so proud of him.'. It is a way to build community, and to bring artists together, to give them their own artistic community. It gives people support, encouragement and inspiration.

Art often draws people to itself, and the Wauchope Creative Hub is going to give people another reason to visit the area, and a beautiful addition to the unique boutique shops that Wauchope is famous for.

The next time your child excitedly brings you one of his drawings, start by making your house a mini Wauchope Creative Hub and display their artwork. You never know, one day, they could be holding their own exhibition on 87 Cameron Street, and you would have to pay quite a bit to hang those paintings on your wall.

Contact Wauchope Creative Hub

87 Cameron Street, Wauchope, NSW 2446


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