From small steps, great things come: the story of an Arts Association
by Ally Bing

The urge to create is as strong an instinct in humankind as any. Everywhere, even as we are required to find work and support families, individuals of all types and backgrounds find pleasure and respite through the participation in, and creation of, art. The need to assemble could also be attributed to our human nature and is surely just as strong a need within us. Through these two attributes, creation and assembly, humankind has marked the earth with cities and empires, monuments to our species and masterful artefacts of culture. It is in our hearts and minds to create, to problem-solve, and to build.Therefore, the formation of the Caloundra Arts Centre Association was perhaps inevitable, with Sunshine Coast creators and artists yearning and determined to connect with kindred spirits who understand their passions, and hunger to learn more about the artforms they love.

The Caloundra Arts Centre Association (C.A.C.A) was formed in 1976 to ‘stimulate public interest in cultural activity and foster artistic talent and appreciation’. Today, C.A.C.A is a dream organisation for artists everywhere who wish to work on their projects in the comfort of a social setting and to increase their skillset. C.A.C.A hosts a remarkable 540 artisans and over 20 different arts-focus groups, catering to an impressive array of tactile artform interests. From only three groups: stitchers,  spinners and weavers, and potters in 1982, the Association is now a community for lace makers, print makers, tapestry weavers, quilters, porcelain painters, textile and fibre artists, and in addition to many more, of course the painters of many mediums: oils, pastels, acrylics, watercolours, and mixed media. The groups work independently of one another to meet on a regular basis, work on projects, and catch up with friends. At the start in ’76, membership was only 50 cents per week. Over forty years later, the weekly attendance fee has hardly inflated at $3.00 – affordable for students and pensioners alike!

The Gift Gallery features the artwork of around 50 experienced artists and crafters, and newcomers and beginners are welcomed and encouraged to participate at all levels. In fact, ‘art for scaredy cats’ is the Association’s newest group. At the beginning of the Association, the few existing groups met in personal homes or rented out meeting halls. The construction of the Centre on 5 North Street allowed for a common meeting point from 1982 onward, with large, open workshop areas and an outlet for artists’ work by way of the Gallery.

The C.A.C.A has survived and thrived through great volunteer effort on the part of its members and great attention to detail in its organisational structure. Far from the stereotypical flighty gaggle of artists, the central Management Committee is supported by a separate volunteer committee for each and every art focus group. The volunteer group committees manage budgets, exhibitions, field trips, donations to charities and awards, workshops, and manage to work on their artworks and crafts in their spare time. Some groups have their own librarians. On the other side of the spectrum, members ensure enjoyment remains a priority in their experience sharing time together. They attend gallery tours, conferences, craft fairs, and whatever else that takes the membership’s fancy.

In C.A.C.A’s February 2018 Art-I-Facts newsletter volume (a newsletter published regularly for nine years longer than I’ve been alive), art group spokespeople expressed time and again how proud and supportive members are of one another’s endeavours. The spinners and weavers’ representative recalled ‘hear[ing] the buzz of electric ideas sparking’, and the lace makers look forward to ‘friendship…and tatting’. The stitchers’ representative observes, ‘Stitchers members not only attend for the companionship and skills learnt in workshops and from each other[,] but have warm and generous hearts as well’. And the Friday art group secretary has this selfless advice to give to the group members, ‘Your perfectly round “coracle of creativity” remains seaworthy – so take up your faithful, handmade single-bladed ebony coracle paddle and embark on a 2018 artful journey that will surprise and delight, not only you.’ ©2018JWJ

It’s not surprising in a forty-year old association which recently awarded nonagenarian Joan Crane for her years of involvement, that a focus for many is the generational passing along of skills. One group is proud this year to have a mother-daughter team on their committee. A member was delighted when her granddaughter asked her one day how to make lace; this member would most likely agree with a spinner’s opinion on encountering a young man curious if she knew someone who could spin his camel’s shed coat into wool: ‘It is so refreshing to meet young people who are enthusiastic about anything today that is not related to electronics’. And the association as a whole has contracted a consultant team to give advice and assistance in the creation of a Master Plan intended to sustain the association for a few more decades into the future.

For those interested in viewing or owning the members’ works of art and craftmanship, members engage in several fairs and exhibits throughout the year. The C.A.C.A. Fine Art Exhibit will be held on Saturday 29 September (9 am to 9 pm), and Sunday 30 September (9 am to 4 pm). Over 250 paintings will be displayed for purchase in all styles across three different rooms, with free entry. There will be an hourly artist walking tour, and two ‘artists in residence’ working alongside the curious public. Next January 2019, the ‘Hard Pressed Printers’ and ‘Spinners and Weavers’ groups will present an exhibition on the 5 &6  January entitled, ‘Symphony of Fibre’.

‘Art’ is such a little word, and yet to describe the concept in one sentence is an impossibly huge undertaking. In a similar vein, the most incredible undertakings in artistic endeavours – sprawling, entrancing geometric designs splashed out in acrylics; intimate, intricate detailings of lace pulled together by hand; a functional wool garment that is warm and soft to the touch – are formed into being with simple, deliberate actions. These actions could almost better be described as small meditations than dramatic flares of artistic inspiration. The Caloundra Arts Centre Association artists have created a legacy for themselves and their descendants by understanding that from small, deliberate actions, great wonders can be achieved.

To learn more, contact the Centre on (07)5491 6488, visit their website at, or head over in person to the Centre and Gift Gallery at 5 North St., Caloundra.

Kate Lawrence
Author: Kate Lawrence

Creativity, Community, Culture