By Ilona Nelson

    Nestled deep in Melbourne’s Western suburbs since 2009, The Art Room has been a nurturing haven for artistic education. Now in its fifth iteration this independent art school has broadened its horizons welcoming both aspiring and experienced artists within an inviting new setting.

    Founded and curated by local artists Erika Gofton and myself, Ilona Nelson, The Art Room, affectionately known as TAR, is more than just an art school; it’s an immersive experience. This institution redefines art education offering a curriculum that spans from mastering the basics to embracing concept driven techniques and professional growth.

    Within the walls of TAR a diverse community thrives. Here beginners take their first tentative steps alongside established artists creating an atmosphere of shared learning and mutual inspiration. The faculty at TAR consists of critically acclaimed artists each with a storied career in the arts. Many have not only honed their craft but also shared their wisdom as university level educators. Their commitment to nurturing the next generation of artists goes beyond imparting skills; it’s about kindling the spark of curiosity that lies within each student.

    What sets The Art Room apart is its philosophy which is a departure from traditional academia. Instead of rigid assessments and one-size-fits-all criteria, TAR’s focus is on the unique journey of every artist. It’s about recognising individual interests and strengths and forging personalised paths to creative fulfilment.

    Erika Gofton, one of the driving forces behind The Art Room, describes it as a place that harmoniously balances artistic creation with intellectual exploration. ‘We assist in all aspects of an arts practice. It’s not an academic approach, but we do encourage research and the development of strong ideas. We unite both the concept with the practical.’

    However, The Art Room is more than just an educational institution. The new premises brought to life through a successful fundraising campaign in 2022, stand as a testament to the generosity of both artists and locals. Students at The Art Room come from all walks of life ranging from 18 to 85 years old. Some are returning to their artistic practice after diverse careers while others are embarking on their creative journeys for the first time. The pandemic prompted TAR to adapt by offering online classes making art accessible to students across state lines who lacked a local network for artistic engagement.

    One of TAR’s success stories is Kathy Landvogt who joined The Art Room community in 2016 after a career in social work. She describes herself as ‘self-directed about my art, but not knowing what I wanted to make.’ Encouraged by TAR she explored textile crafts, a medium she had never before considered as art. Over the past three years Kathy’s textile sculptures have graced galleries earning her a feature in Textiel Plus magazine in the Netherlands. Reflecting on her journey Kathy remarked ‘I never expected this to be happening, that people would want to see my art in those places. It was just one step in front of the other.’

    The Art Room’s new home, a converted warehouse on Cowper Street, is a treasure trove of artistic resources housing print presses, throwing wheels, a kiln, and five spacious teaching studios including a dedicated life drawing room. Yet it’s the communal lounge that beckons with its leafy architecturally designed ambience and a library teeming with nearly two thousand art books. Here, students and instructors gather savouring cups of tea and bonding over puzzles and good conversation, all connected by their shared love for art and creativity.

    Expanding its horizons further The Art Room now features a permanent gallery space open to the public. At present the walls display two enthralling exhibitions: Quacks in the pavement by Vin Ryan and Light, Come Light by Stefan Gevers running from October 7th to November 11th. The gallery’s calendar promises a vibrant array of exhibitions throughout 2024 with a current call for proposals for both Parallel Projects and Conduit accepting submissions until October 13th.

    The Art Room beckons you to embark on a journey of artistic exploration and community. To delve deeper into this world of creativity visit or follow on Instagram. Mark your calendars for The Art Room’s Open Day on Saturday December 2nd and stay updated with event details by following them online. 

    Photo: Clare Martin Lapworth

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