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Arts & Culture

Creativity is the lifeblood of a region. McLaren Vale and Fleurieu coast is a thriving art and cultural capital of the south. 

With one of the highest concentrations of artists in South Australia, the dynamic thriving arts scene and cultural fabric of the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is not to be missed.

From sculpture and street art to pottery, homewares, furniture, jewellery, and paintings, McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is alive with art every which way you turn.

With a significant arts history, there’s plenty of galleries, art spaces, working studios full of beautiful art pop-ups, street art, murals, festivals and events, all just waiting to be discovered across the region. 

Experience galleries exhibiting national and international works, or meet the artist at their studios, art spaces or even cellar doors, best enjoyed with a glass of wine, of course.

Here’s a guide to some of our top picks. 

Feature Artist: Micky Barlow

Visitors to Aboriginal artist Micky Barlow’s gallery can observe this talented practitioner at work and learn the stories and symbols behind her vibrant dot paintings.

Micky, a Kokatha woman, is a contemporary artist who enjoys interacting with guests at her McLaren Vale studio, gallery and shop.

It is a warm, friendly space where you can chat with Micky and maybe even meet her mum, Gwen, who is often in the studio threading quandong and ininti seed necklaces.

In addition to the intricate dot paintings, the gallery showcases hand-woven baskets, wood burning (punu) objects and a signature range of hand-painted homewares including candle holders, cheese boards, lazy susans, salad bowls and serving trays. 

“People who come here are really wanting to learn more, they’re so interested in the culture and they like to watch me at work and see the work is authentic,” Micky says.

“That’s why I love being here, it’s not just about people buying my art, but I am teaching a little bit about my culture and where I’m from. I’d dabbled with art a few years earlier purely for relaxation but took up art full time in 2016 and haven’t looked back. From a little hobby it has grown to be much, much more”.

The self-taught artist spent a year with her late grandmother (on her mother’s side) talking about colours and symbols she could use in her paintings. 

Her grandmother was also the inspiration behind an evocative painting called Wattle Seed which was a finalist in the prestigious 2018 Waterhouse Art Prize.  It now enjoys pride of place on her gallery wall.

 “Nanna used to take us camping when we were kids and she’d make wattleseed damper and cook it on the campfire so the wattleseed features prominently,” Micky says.

Micky Barlow Art is a great place to start your art immersion in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, with other fantastic galleries like Fleurieu Arthouse, Sauerbier House and Red Poles, all waiting to welcome you too.

Must do experience: Dot painting workshops where Micky talks participants through their designs, helps them make a plan of the story they want to tell and teaches them about Aboriginal symbols - suitable for individuals, family or work groups. 

Keep an eye out: Micky is planning to offer cultural immersion workshops to combine dot painting sessions with bush food education.

Micky Barlow Art Gallery

The d’Arenberg Cube, McLaren Vale 

The Cube, a five-storey architectural triumph, is a work of art itself and its audacious design sets the scene for the eccentric artworks to be found within.

Whilst in the region, an absolute must is the Salvadore Dali exhibition on loan from Switzerland, but be quick. The surrealist exhibit includes two monumental Dali sculptures at The Cube’s entry and continues inside with 25 original Salvador Dali sculptures, paintings and drawings.  

Also worth a look are paintings by Australian surrealist artist Charles Billich whose artworks hang in the Vatican, The White House and the United Nations.

The creativity continues throughout The Cube with art installations at every turn and a gallery dubbed the Alternate Realities Museum followed by a psychedelic 360-degree video room.  

Don’t miss:  d’Arenberg’s lawns showcase an exhibition called A Road Less Travelled with 15 large sculptures by renowned Adelaide artist Greg Johns.

darenburg cube

The Gallery, McLaren Vale 

Nestled at the entrance to the Vale, The Gallery features a changing series of contemporary art exhibitions and is also home to the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast Visitor Centre.  The Gallery is part of an architecturally-designed building made of rammed earth and timber and has garden and vineyard views.

Don’t miss:   Take in the art exhibitions and stay on for lunch at the Stump Hill Café. Why not taste a little wine too with Vale Cru, a collective of high quality, small batch, McLaren Vale winemakers who are great story-tellers of the region too, you’ll see.

Fleurieu Arthouse, McLaren Vale 

Fleurieu Arthouse is a contemporary artisan hub which is located within the grounds of the historic Hardys Tintara winery.     The arthouse, managed by metal sculpture artists Anna Small and Warren Pickering, has a warehouse vibe and combines a retail space, gallery and studios.  Visitors can browse the shop with its well-curated range of art works including glass, ceramics, jewellery, sculpture, prints and  paintings.     

It also includes eight artist studios, constructed from Hardys oak pallets so it’s possible for guests to observe and interact with the artists.    

The gallery’s exhibitions rotate every month and feature the best of the Fleurieu’s art practitioners.  

Don’t miss:  Indulge in a specialty Kicco coffee and sweet treat to fuel your art exploration! 

Fleurieu Art House Mclaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

Red Poles, McLaren Vale

Red Poles was founded by art lover Ros Miller who wanted to create a destination combining art, food, wine and music.

The charismatic restaurant/cellar door puts art at centre stage with an indigenous gallery featuring ever-changing exhibitions by SA Aboriginal artists.   

Red Poles’ mezzanine and café areas also feature work from about 350 local and SA artists with paintings, drawings, photography, textiles, printmaking, glass , ceramics and jewellery.

Don’t miss:  regular art workshops for adults and children, corporate groups, family events, hens days, or children’s birthday parties.

Willunga Glass Studio and Off The Slate Gallery, Willunga

Respected glass artist Glenn Howlett shares his Willunga studio space with a vibrant cooperative of local artists.  Glenn exhibits and sells his kiln-fired, blown and leadlight glass art works while 14 participating co-op artists work in many genres from paintings to blacksmithery, mosaics, woodwork, textiles and pottery. The creative mix means there is always a great diversity of art on show at this friendly, artist-run gallery.

Don’t miss: Glenn Howlett’s glass-blowing demonstrations (generally during winter),  leadlight classes and glass fusing workshops. 

Willunga Glass Studio Mclaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

Willunga Gallery, Willunga 

Willunga ceramic artist Irene Dougan runs this gallery and gift shop in a cute character cottage with a beautiful garden at the back. The gallery exhibits work by local and interstate artists, designers and craftspeople. 

Don’t miss:  the dedicated card room with its delightful array of artistic gift cards you won’t find elsewhere.

Sauerbier House, Port Noarlunga

Port Noarlunga is a thriving artistic hub and Sauerbier House is at the heart of the creative community.   The restored State-Heritage colonial villa is home to an innovative contemporary visual arts centre which is a must-see destination for art lovers touring the Fleurieu.

Featuring an ongoing program of thought-provoking exhibitions, it also has an artist-in-residence program, open studio sessions and a series of artist talks and art workshops . 

Don’t miss:  Take the opportunity to see the artists at work in their studio and speak with them about their practice.  The emerging and established artists at Sauerbier create site-responsive work which focuses on their experience in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. This a great chance to see the region through the contemporary lens of local artists.

Port Noarlunga Arts Centre  

The popular Arts Centre is a much-loved gallery in the beachside town of Port Noarlunga and has a rich, accessible program of exhibitions, courses, music and events.   Featuring three gallery spaces, a visual arts studio and performance spaces, a great way to immerse yourself in the arts and cultural scene.   A dynamic entertainment program brings SA’s best music and theatre acts for matinee and evening performances at the centre.

Don’t miss:  Take home a memory from the south with a visit to The Art Shop in the foyer of the Arts Centre  which features works by talented artists from the Fleurieu Peninsula and its surrounds. Peruse  jewellery, prints, original artworks, glassware, ceramics, textiles and more.

DogRidge Gallery, McLaren Vale 

This gallery is a small, rustic space featuring works by resident artists Jen Wright and Sarah Howard who are both part of the DogRidge family.    Their paintings focus on local bird life and landscapes, portraits and still life scenes.

DogRidge always takes part in Fringe, SALA and Shimmer exhibitions with events staged in the garden space adjoining the gallery. 

The DogRidge team can offer a fun wine tasting experience in the gallery where groups of up to ten people can design their own wine label while tasting their way through the DogRidge range of McLaren Vale premium wines.     

Don’t miss:  Art classes in the gallery including watercolour painting and lino cut printmaking led by talented local artists.  They are always a fun day including lunch and of course, the odd glass of wine.

Red Dot Gallery at Penny’s Hill, McLaren Vale

Celebrated Fleurieu artist Gail Kellett is the artist in residence at the Red Dot Gallery at Penny’s Hill Winery.   Gail has a strong following for her original hand-painted  linocut artworks which are inspired by the diversity of the Fleurieu region from its rural and urban landscape, native flora and agricultural machinery.   Her highly detailed, colourful work is right at home on the walls of the winery’s foyer, cellar door and restaurant.  Wine and food may be major draw cards but many art lovers visit Penny’s Hill purely to see Gail’s work. 

Don’t miss: Gail’s much-admired linocut print called In The Grounds Of Penny’s Hill featuring the wine property’s paddocks and famous black-faced sheep.

Discover the diverse array of Public Art on display throughout the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast region.

Explore the Fleurieu Art and Culture Trail.

 

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