In excess of 650 individual artists and groups from the southern region of WA have participated in the Southern Art and Craft Trail since its inception in 2003.
ArtSouthWA, the creators and managers of the Art Trail, have been digging deep into their archives to reveal an interesting history, and the dedicated people behind 20 years of support and promotion of the visual arts.
Beginning in 2000, when Denmark couple John and Rosemary Croston returned from a trip to England with an art trail concept, Melanie and Angus McKenzie from The Edge Gallery in Denmark secured funding to establish a database to help promote the number of artists and organisations who were exhibiting in the region.
Prior to this however, the art community of the greater southern region had been promoted through various galleries, and the annual Viewpoint exhibition collated by Christina McGuinness in 1988. Christina researched the potential of the arts and craft industry and its contribution to the cultural tourism viability of the region revealing a wealth of talent in the region.
As the wine industry gained momentum, cellar doors were opening and visitor numbers to the region were increasing, making it viable for galleries to open.
With the formation of ArtSouthWA in 2000, the dedicated team went on to create the inaugural Southern Art and Craft Trail in 2003. It featured 36 exhibitions of individuals and groups of artists and craftspeople stretching from Walpole to Bremer Bay, including Denmark, Albany, Mt Barker, and many towns along the way.
Each year the number of exhibitions grew, peaking in 2018 to 93. Only COVID brought a halt in 2020, seeing the Art Trail replaced by a multiple artist exhibition at Vancouver Arts Centre in Albany over 9 days. In 2023 exhibitions numbers have climbed back to 74, seeing many newcomers to the event and representing over 450 artists and a further 400 student artists. Data reveals that over different 650 artists and groups have taken part over the years, with the many exhibiting multiple times including the following:
- Torbay Glass – 20 years
- Adventures in Wood – 18 years and
- June Smith – 17 years.
The Southern Art and Craft Trail is managed and sustained by the ArtSouthWA Board and the sponsors and grant providers. The ArtSouthWA Board works for 12 months to produce the Southern Art and Craft Trail and dedicates 1,500 to 2,000 hours of volunteer time every year, with additional hours provided by a part time administrator.
Tourism WA together with the City of Albany, are the longest continuing Art Trail supporters. Bendigo Bank provided support for 10 years, with Regional Arts WA now a partner.
This year’s 20th Anniversary Art Trail will be celebrated in various ways including an expanded launch event, historical stories, street banners, awards and workshops. The Southern Art and Craft Trail continues to promote and grow both the opportunities for regional artists to showcase their work, and the reasons for visitors to come and explore this amazing area.