What do the National Gallery of Victoria and Endeavour Foundation’s QArt Gallery have in common?
The work of John Bates.
John is an artist employed by QArt Gallery, located in the inner Melbourne suburb of Kew.
Like all of the talented artists on the QArt payroll, John has an intellectual disability.
But first and foremost, he is an artist.
John is just one example of the depth of talent you’ll find in the QArt studio any given day.
From the intricate designs of Ashlea Sergakis, to the contemporary watercolours of Jordan Dymke or the bold aeronautical and maritime themes of Henry Deakin, QArt’s artists have the opportunity to express their interests, thoughts and feelings through their work while getting paid for doing what they love.
In total, there are 20 professional artists on the QArt roster, ranging in age from 16 to 74.
Their original artworks are exhibited and sold in the QArt Gallery, located in the Kew Court House, a restored heritage building that is also home to the QArt studio.
Opened in 2010, the QArt Gallery provides a fantastic opportunity for the artists to showcase their work, connect with the community and make their work more accessible.
Their vibrant creations adorn a range of commercial products sold through QArt including limited edition prints, bags, gift wrap, calendars, greeting cards, acrylic art tiles, aprons and tea towels.
It’s possible you’ve even sipped a takeaway coffee in a cup printed with the work of a QArt artist.
In 2018, two works by QArt’s Lisa Hine and Lucette Crozier were chosen by BioCup to be printed onto 100,000 recyclable take-away coffee cups for distribution to cafés across Australia.
QArt’s commercial approach is key to being able to employ artists with disabilities in real jobs with real wages. Registered as an Australian Disability Enterprise, QArt provides mentoring and training for the artists as well as employment.
“The studio and Gallery are successful because we set a very high standard. Our work is professional and contemporary,” said QArt Manager, Jan Rowlinson.
“We are always looking at what is new, trendy but unusual.”
Each morning (from Tuesday to Friday) the QArt studio comes alive at 8.30am for a day of creativity and smiles.
The artists love coming to work and it shows.
“The QArt studio is a very happy place. It is a typical art studio – messy, lots of paint, paper, pencils and brushes all over the place. There are unfinished canvases, ceramic pieces, drawings and books,” said Jan.
“We work hard but in a relaxed way – the atmosphere is friendly and inspiring. We work in collaboration, so the artists often work together. Gordon, our studio supervisor, and the volunteers also work with the artists, teaching them new techniques or assisting with colours or drawings.”
“We always have music playing…Everyone gets a chance to listen to what they like. Frank Sinatra is played often! And the younger ones moan.”
Most of the artists work four days each week, but some do less depending on their capabilities or other commitments.
“We are flexible to ensure that each artist can maximise their involvement with QArt,” Jan said.
The artists travel from across Melbourne and beyond to work in the studio.
“One artists’ family live too far for daily travel so he lives in accommodation close by during the week”, said Jan.
It’s not surprising that working as an artist for QArt is a sought-after gig. New recruits need to firstly show ability, but also passion and commitment.
“The basic requirement is that the person is artistic – has some art talent. The person is interviewed by myself and the studio supervisor and does a few hours of artwork in the studio,” explained Jan.
“If we feel that there is potential then the person does a 13-week monitored and paid trial in the studio.”
“All applicants must have an NDIS plan.”
Many of the artists working at QArt have difficulty in their everyday lives expressing what they think and feel.
However, when they pick up a paint brush, they are able to show who they are and what they believe in. It’s a liberating and satisfying process for the artists.
“Not only does the individual grow and flourish as an artist but the positive changes to their personal life is remarkable,” said Jan.
“New friendships are made and they have a purpose and a pride in what they do.”
It would seem that it’s not just the artists’ lives that are enriched by working at QArt. From those that volunteer their time in the studio, to QArt Manager, Jan Rawlinson, everyone is changed by the experience.
“I honestly think that I have the best job! It is a joy to manage the studio and gallery.
“My office is a little corner in the studio so I am part of the daily energy, chatter and craziness!
“I don’t know what each day will bring. But to see the artwork happen and to watch the artists grow as artists and people is so satisfying.
“To be able to share their amazing talent with the community is why I do this job – imagine all this talent being wasted if there was not a place like QArt and Endeavour Foundation.”
Many of the QArt artists’ works have graced the walls of Endeavour Foundation’s Prize Homes and form part of the prize for the lucky winners.
At Endeavour Foundation’s Anniversary prize home at Montville, you can see Shelby Gardner’s original painting ‘Tulip Collection’ and Lisa Hine’s canvas print ‘Le Chat Noir’ on display.
Take a virtual tour of the home here or visit us in person at 205-209 Western Avenue, Montville.
If you’re based in Melbourne or heading there sometime soon, make sure you check out QArt Gallery in your travels. The Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm at Kew Court House, 188 High Street, Kew.
You can also shop for original artworks and QArt merchandise online at www.qart.endeavour.com.au
All of the QArt artists are available for commissions. So, if you like the style of an artist, you can commission them to create a unique artwork to suit your office or home. Or if there is a particular painting you like would like to tweak its size or colour palette, our artists are able to create a customised piece that fits the bill.
QArt artist Jarrod Wendt also specialises in pet portraits, so get in touch if you would like him to capture on canvas the essence of your furry friend.
By purchasing artwork from QArt Gallery, you are helping to keep the QArt artists in secure employment and live productive and engaged lives in the community.
Stay up-to-date with upcoming exhibitions and events by following QArt on Facebook
You can also sign up to the QArt email newsletter
Entering the draw can be life-changing in more ways than one
When you purchase lottery tickets from Endeavour Foundation, you help to provide opportunities for people with an intellectual disability to learn life skills, live independently, have a job they love, and be actively involved in their local communities. Find out more about how Endeavour Foundation is helping people with disability to imagine what’s possible.