Gecko Studio Gallery in Fish Creek completes ten years in business
Gecko Studio Gallery opened its doors in sleepy Fish Creek, Victoria on the 8th of January, 2007 after five months of preparation. Founded by Kerry Spokes and Michael Lester, Gecko is now a thriving business in a still relatively small but very much a bustling town. In early 2007 visitors may have seen the Flying Cow café if they happened to look to the left as they passed through Fish Creek on their way to Wilsons Prom and may have happened upon Gecko a few doors up. The Flying Cow Café had been opened by Marita Smith and Adam Murfitt back in early 2007 but was then owned by Cherie Richards and Cliff Wendlandt; the Celia Rosser Gallery was still being built and Fish Tales, the bookshop next door, had not long before been bought by a young couple of architects (Bridget Crowe and Michael Chang – now 9 Acres Coffee Bar) but Fish Creek was still fairly sleepy back in 2007. Look how Fish Creek has come on in ten years and Gecko Studio Gallery along with it.
The whole business started because Kerry found out that John Koenders of Studio Reflections Picture Framing in Leongatha was selling his framing equipment. Michael thought Kerry merely wanted to frame her own artworks on weekends but was quickly disabused of that notion. All of a sudden (seemingly) he found himself building workbenches for the framing studio, painting the gallery building and trying to figure out how to run an art gallery and framing business. It was tough in the early days for Kerry as she still had two kids at home, worked in aged care during the day and did all the framing at night and on weekends. In late 2010 Adrian Johnson of Wonthaggi and late of the Framing Art Place (which had closed down) was quickly recruited to work at Gecko as the framer. Adrian is an award winning painter of sublime oil paintings as well as the Gecko framer. He is kept well employed with a constant stream of framing including all the framing for the Alison Lester Shop in Fish Creek.
Gecko was started as a commercial gallery to showcase contemporary art from local artists and from further afield. Exhibitions have ranged from acrylics, oil paintings, watercolours and drawings through to pin-hole camera photography, marbled paper, chicken wire sculptures, paper collage, glass, stitched and painted silk and, of course, printmaking. To date, Gecko has presented 110 exhibitions. The full list is reproduced below. Some of the artists have since died and Kerry and Michael would like to preserve their memories – Brian Cragg, Frank Wildenberg and Toni Buckley.
The Gecko reputation has grown and they have found they are being approached by more and more artists while they have their own list of artists they are seeking to exhibit.
The official opening was held on February 18 2007, in +40°C heat and everyone hung out on the footpath as it was too hot in the gallery. Col Suggett, sculptor and designer from Venus Bay, gave a speech “celebrating the conditions and outlook in this part of the world that allows the creation of such vibrant multi-faceted art businesses such as Gecko Studio Gallery”. Col complimented Kerry and Michael on the presentation of the gallery and the framing of the artworks on exhibition.
The gallery gradually filled up with more and more beautiful objects for sale ranging from jewellery and ceramics and other artisan and craft items; much on consignment, mostly from locals with some from elsewhere. Gecko is certainly a place to go to when looking for gifts. The art materials started in a small way in around 2008 and also took off so that now there is a large selection always threatening to take over more exhibition space.
As time went by it was found essential to employ staff to help out and relieve especially when Kerry and Michael went on holidays. Annie Stark, Kathie McLaren, Jane Power, Winsome Richards, Susan Quinn and Chez Bradshaw all worked or helped out over the years. These days Susan Purdy works 2 days a week and three days a week during the high season. Annie, Jane, Susan Quinn and Susan Purdy have all had exhibitions and Chez has been in group shows at Gecko.
Gecko has run many art workshops over the years with a leaning towards printmaking but with forays out into drawing, watercolour and wood engraving.
In October 2007 Gecko put out their first newsletter highlighting the next exhibition, Gecko activities and a roundup of art events through the district. In those days the newsletter was printed and mailed (at great cost) as well as being emailed. Nowadays the newsletter is reduced in scope and a list of other newsletters included. Michael found that whereas there were almost no other newsletters in 2007, by 2012 everyone seemed to be putting out a newsletter. Time to ease back a little. The newsletter is emailed out these days to just under 1400 subscribers and is available on the Gecko website. The printing of the newsletter ceased years ago due to the cost. To have the mailing list (and workshop notifications) emailed to you, go to the front page of the website and fill in the form or put your name and email down in the book in the gallery.
Kerry’s artwork is an integral part of the business with some of her work translated into art cards, decorated tiles and limited edition prints, alongside her original artworks for sale. Future plans to extend their range and sales reach of tiles and cards produced by Gecko are afoot, stay tuned.
Kerry and Michael connect with the community through involvement with Prom Coast Arts Council (Kerry was President for 11 years and Michael is currently President), Fish Creek Community Development Group and Michael is involved with the Sth Gippsland Shire Council’s revision of the South Gippsland Art, Culture & Creative Industry policy through participation in a working group and through membership of the South Gippsland Arts Alliance. They sponsor the Prom Coast Arts Council ‘Great Southern Portrait Prize’, sponsor an annual artistic endeavour award for a Year 12 VCE student at South Gippsland Secondary College and donate to various community and sporting groups. They are also supportive of the other galleries in Fish Creek and the surrounding area.
Kerry and Michael feel fortunate to be doing what they love. They get to meet so many interesting people, host a new and exciting exhibition each month and all in beautiful Fish Creek in South Gippsland. Ten years is a significant milestone to be running an arts based business in rural Victoria and there is no sign Gecko is going to slow down.
Kerry and Michael would like to thank their customers, supporters, current and past staff and everyone else who have helped them reach this point and invite everyone to a soirée between 6 and 8pm, Friday January 20 at Gecko Studio Gallery, 15 Falls Rd, Fish Creek, ph 5683 2481 firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook and Instagram.
There will a selection of images from the 10 years of Gecko on display and some speeches recounting times of interest over the last 10 years.