What sets Peace of Green Gallery apart from other galleries is the fact that, as a collective of artists, one of the group is always on duty, happy to discuss their works as well as those by other members. It is this personal touch that sees the gallery still thriving after 25 years.
By Dale Jacobsen
Foundation member Jill Morris, of Greater Glider Productions, recalls how it all began: “We formed the first group from exhibitors at the Maleny Markets. Howard Jupp, Jo Shepherd and Sally Anne Lancaster were the driving force.
“There were seven of us who took over the lease of a tiny shop (we called it the cupboard) next to the Maple Street Co-op.” Maleny legend Jill Jordan officially opened the new gallery.
Sally and Jo made a green ceramic and glass disc, comprising seven pieces – one for each member. That is how the name came about, with ‘piece’ becoming ‘peace’.
The initial seven included Gillian Pechey, Cathy Lawley (her ceramic frogs are famous) – still active members – and Sally’s mother, Peg Lancaster.
This was 1993, and Maleny was abuzz with the idea of collectives and co-ops. Within six months, another dozen people were keen to be a part of this vibrant group.
At this point the antique shop over the road became vacant. Jo jumped at the chance, and in 1994 a group of seventeen moved into the new premises.
The Gallery was officially opened by Professor Paul Thomas, Vice Chancellor of the new University of the Sunshine Coast. Yanna Parmeijer, a local sculptor, created the ceramic logo that still hangs on the outside wall.
Marc Kalifa, a long-term member, explained the principles of the gallery: “To be part of our collective, you must be local and your work of high quality and handmade. Over the years, around 70 artists have passed through, and many have gone on to greatness.”
Just about every medium (both 2D and 3D) has been represented at some time, and many of the artisans are keeping ancient crafts alive, such as Marc’s glass blowing; then there is Glenys Fentiman whose glass mosaics sell worldwide.
In the late 1990s, my partner, Doug Eaton, represented the art of lutherie, joining as Stanley River Music. And customers are known to return 20 years after buying a pair of Gillian Pechey’s leather sandals, saying they have finally worn out and they need a new pair.
But the building is much more than just another gallery. In 2008, then-owner Mary Nagy decided to sell, and there was great concern that the building, erected by local Harry Lyons as a motor garage in the 1880s, would be demolished to make way for development. However, the new owner proved to be very supportive of arts and crafts in all their forms.
“This building represents so much of Maleny’s history,” said Jill, “so I decided to make a documentary starring the old girl and interviewed people who knew it as a restaurant, a home, a skating rink, and so many other things.
“A Peace of Green: Cornerstone of a Community was launched at the Maleny Film Society on January 23, 2009. I think it made people sit up and take notice that we shouldn’t lose our heritage.”
There are often collaborative projects between members. Years ago, Ann Oliver sculpted a northern hairy-nosed wombat, complete with slot in the head, to accept donations for the habitat and care of the endangered wombat. Ann and Jill have moved on but the sculpture continues to collect money to protect the species.
“The success of Peace of Green comes back to hard work and trust,” said Gillian. “Everyone has to be able to manage the retail aspect of the Gallery. People take on key roles, and we work as a team.
“Meetings and social events are a lot of fun. We have become a part of the tourist appeal of Maleny and the wider community of the Hinterland.”
These days, with a membership of 23, Peace of Green is at capacity. “In the past five years, the quality and variety has improved immensely, and many are full-time professional artists,” said Marc.
“A lot of younger artists have come on board, and we now have an active presence on social media. That’s what I like about POG, it is constantly evolving.”
Normally, it is difficult for artists to make contact with the public, but Peace of Green is transformative. That’s what makes it different from other galleries.
To mark the 25-year milestone, world-renowned ceramicist and once Peace of Green member, Shannon Garson, will officially launch celebrations on Saturday April 7 at 4pm. It will be quite a party!