Shortly after being awarded an Order of Australia medal in Sydney earlier this year, renowned artist Pat Harry, OAM, decided it was time for a change of scenery.
But not finding anything suitable to accommodate her lifestyle and home studio in her native New South Wales, Harry cast her eye further south, until she finally found what she was looking for a few weeks ago.
“I couldn’t find anything I liked in NSW, Orange and the country towns were not as nice as Bendigo so I decided I’d come down here and give it a go,” she said.
“I love the gallery, it’s the best one I’ve been to, NSW hasn’t got anything like it and I just thought it was marvelous and the town’s beautiful so I thought ‘Bendigo it is’.
“I did live in the heart of Sydney, right in Woolloomooloo so it’s a big move but I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
After 20 years in Sydney and another 20 years teaching art at the Australian National University in Canberra before that, Harry found the harbourside city had lost some of its sheen.
“When I moved to Sydney you could get a studio in the early ‘90s without any trouble, now it’s just all high rise and they just pull them down unfortunately so I had to go,” she said.
“Also I came here too because I love being close to Melbourne, I think Melbourne’s marvelous, such an elegant and sophisticated city compared to dear old Sydney, which has got the harbour and if it didn’t have the harbour it’d be a terrible city.”
Shortly after arriving in central Victoria four weeks ago, Harry was shocked to hear of the tribulations faced by the Castlemaine Art Gallery, but relieved when the institution was subsequently thrown a lifeline.
“I found that quite extraordinary that anything could happen like that, it’s a magnificent gallery, beautiful artwork and it should be left,” she said.
“It’s too good an area all around here to neglect the arts scene.”
And while Harry hopes to connect with other local artists in the near future and even display some of her own works locally if the opportunity presents, for now she’s happy exploring the region’s culture, restaurants and even “a couple of pubs”.
“Let’s see what happens, it’s all exciting, it’ll be interesting to see what does eventuate,” she said.
“So far it’s very good, I’m enjoying it. The night life looks good, the whole city, well it’s alive.”