Features/Road trip series/Multi-arts

Hit the road for southern sensations

25 November 2022

You don’t have to head too far out of Perth to discover a veritable playground of colour, form and function for art lovers. Ara Jansen explores the South West.

In the second instalment of Seesaw Magazine’s series showcasing the arts in regional Western Australia, we head to the South West, where day trips, weekend getaways and longer adventures galore await. 

There are plenty of opportunities to simply soak up the beauty of the South West, but you could also get your hands dirty by learning a new skill at a class or workshop.  

We’ve only scratched the surface but here are a few ideas for exploring the area from Bunbury and Busselton through to Augusta, Walpole and Boyup Brook.  

While tripping the art fantastic you should, of course, take the time to sample the local chocolate, wine, beer and paddock-to-plate food.  

Two people stand in front of a large vivid canvas, their backs to the camera. Smaller artworks by Noongar artists are dotted around the main piece. This is the Noongar Country exhibition that was held at BRAG.
BRAG hosts an array of stunning exhibitions, such as ‘Noongar Country’. Photo supplied

Galleries, museums and more in Bunbury

The vibrant Bunbury Regional Art Gallery hosts travelling shows, features local artists and is home to the City of Bunbury Collection. BRAG, as the gallery is fondly known, has plenty to brag about, too. The highly respected Bunbury Biennale (2 April – 4 June 2023) gives West Australian artists an open platform to present the latest trends in cutting-edge contemporary art, pushing boundaries, exploring challenging concepts and stretching limits.  

Located in the 1886 Bunbury Boys School, the permanent and changing exhibitions of the Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre tell the unique stories of the South West and the colourful characters who helped make Bunbury a vibrant port city.  

While you’re in town, check out Stirling Street Arts Centre for exhibitions, events and markets, an artist in residence and a variety of workshops, including nature journalling and watercolour painting. There’s also The Fuller Co+Op, a collaborative work meets retail space for micro enterprises, with a focus on cottage industry businesses and items handmade by local artisans.  

A beautifully drawn brown and white owl perches on a solitary branch. This is an illustration from the exhibition Bird Brains at ArtGeo Cultural Complex.
Watch With Glittering Eyes’ is part of ArtGeo’s ‘Bird Brains’ exhibition, which opens on 8 December. Illustration: Sally Edmonds

Busselton’s ArtGeo Cultural Complex  

In Busselton, the ArtGeo Cultural Complex brings together numerous aspects of the arts, inviting everyone from professionals to amateurs to express and revel in their passions.  

Acting Up! provides specialist coaching in acting, drama and musical theatre, while Busselton Repertory performs several plays a year, including their ever-popular annual panto. The Busselton Arts Society, one of the oldest regional art societies in WA, regularly hosts workshops. 

The Merenj Boodja Bush Food Garden showcases edible and medicinal plants that were highly valued by the region’s traditional custodians. One of the six life-sized bronze sculptures in the Settlement Art Project is of Gaywal, an Aboriginal Elder at the time of Busselton’s settlement who symbolises strength and tradition. 

There are big things to come, too, with the ArtGeo Gallery, under construction inside the new arts and convention centre, due for completion in October 2023. 

A woman in a patterned dress and red cardigan stands in a studio, paint brush and pot in hand. She is surrounded by colourful creations hanging from the roof, paint pots and other art materials scattered over every surface around her. This is artist Rebecca Cool in her studio for Margaret River Region Open Studios.
Artist Rebecca Cool welcomes visitors during Margaret River Region Open Studios. Photo: Tim Campbell

Margaret River Region Open Studios 

The biggest of its kind in Australia, the Margaret River Region Open Studios is a free annual open arts studio event held around September. Artists from all over the region throw open the doors of their studios, many of which are private venues, to show their work and share their processes. At other times of the year, you can make a direct approach to the artist if you’d like to see more of their work.  

The region is also known for its art galleries. From ceramicists and furniture makers to painters and photographers, there’s so much to fire your imagination, inspire you, or just make you happy. Some examples include photographer Christian Fletcher, known for his colour-rich scenes; functional art from Happs Pottery; handcrafted jewellery at Payet Gallery; glass at Melting Pot Glass Studio; Mr Barval Fine Wines, which supports artists from remote Indigenous communities in not-for-profit exhibitions; and Aravina Estate, which hosts WA’s first official surfing museum.  

Bridgetown Art Trail 

A large light-filled room with high ceilings is filled with colourful paintings arranged on easels. Brightly coloured Asian-style umbrellas hang from the roof, ceramic pieces on the shelves. This is the art hub The Rabbit Hole.
The Rabbit Hole offers a cornucopia of artistic delights. Photo supplied

In Bridgetown, there’s a collection of talented and accomplished artists masquerading as shop owners, hairdressers, mechanics, teachers, neighbours or any one of the smiling faces you might see along the main drag of Hampton Street. The Bridgetown Art Trail is an ongoing project of installations along a 4km-stretch of local streets that reflect the history and the future this evolving community. It features outdoor wall art, sculptures, a tapestry and a metal orb made from found objects.  

Also on Hampton Street is The Rabbit Hole, a space for art play and a not-for-profit hub for artists and art enthusiasts which hosts the work of local and other West Australian artists. From fine art to performing arts, the hub host events, workshops and exhibitions and has work for sale.  

Clay arts in Mullalyup 

Drop by Balingup to visit Clay Dragon Arts in Mullalyup. This studio and gallery is home to artisans Cindy Armanasco and Tarlz Leaf, who specialise in clay sculpture, whimsical fantasy castles, smoking dragons, elephants, mermaids, wizards, mythical creatures, creative ovenproof kitchenware and garden art.  

Collie Art Gallery 

A group of people stand in a light-filled gallery taking in the artwork lining the white walls. This is Collie Art Gallery.
Collie Art Gallery has quickly found a large following. Photo supplied

Located 230km south of Perth, the Collie Art Gallery opened seven years ago with a maiden exhibition of works by Arthur Boyd, followed by the Collie Collection, which included works by renowned Australian artists Norman Lindsay, Guy Grey Smith and Elizabeth Durack.

Today it’s a space for old masters and new works, including one of Australia’s richest regional art prizes, the $50,000 Collie Art Prize. The 2023 winners, who explored the theme of identity, will be announced at a gala event on March 4, after which the exhibition will open for the public. The prize also has a kids’ section – Kid-entity – which attracted more than 500 entries, some of which will be on display during the exhibition. The gallery hosts regular shows and has an active calendar of workshops, kids’ classes and lectures.  

Festival fun year round 

The South West is a haven for festivals. Music festivals such as Blues at Bridgetown and the Boyup Brook Country Music Festival are well loved, while the Balingup Medieval Carnivale features a carnival feast and incredible costumes and weapons. 

Set on a purpose-built site in Karridale, the Karnidale Circus Festival (January 13-14, 2023) features national and international circus shows, cabaret, live music, DJs, markets, a children’s program and infamous late-night shows.  

This year the Manjimup Cherry Harmony Festival turns 21. This free celebration of community, harmony and cherries on December 10 includes an art award and photography competition, classic car and truck parade, live music, street performers and, of course, a chance to eat cherries.  

Passionate about community singing, SongFest hosts events around the state, including Dunsborough (November) and the inaugural Busselton (mid-year) event, which welcomed 200 singers in 2022 (including Seesaw Mag Ed Nina Levy).  

Doors open to an old-fashioned looking train. Painted cream and a rich racing green, with the inside of one door a velvety red. This is one of the exhibits at the South West Rail Museum.
An old beauty at the South West Rail and Heritage Centre. Photo supplied

The Busselton Fringe will be back in 2023 with dates still to be confirmed, while the 2023 Bunbury Fringe runs from January 20 to 28 next year.  

Check in to WAnderland 

Dip into this site, where you will find lots of interesting arty, historical and places of interest to add to your journey. Step back in time to the 1920s at the Margaret River Historical Society, where you’ll visit a cluster of buildings which make up the local museum, learn about railways at the South West Rail and Heritage Centre in Boyanup or drop by the Bridgetown Police Station Museum. 

Art lovers’ road trip 

If you can’t be bothered planning your own itinerary, check out this suggested five-day trip for art lovers, starting in Bunbury and travelling through the South West into the Great Southern. There is so much natural beauty to soak up along the way, you’ll be as enthralled with your surrounds as the art work you discover. 

Read the first part in our art road trip series, Tripping into the Wheatbelt.

Pictured top: The Margaret River Historical Society takes you back to the 1920s. Photo supplied

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Ara Jansen

Ara Jansen is a freelance journalist. Words, bright colour, books, music, art, fountain pens, good conversation, interesting people and languages make her deeply happy. A longtime music journalist and critic, she’s the former music editor of The West Australian. Being in the pool next to the playground is one of her favourite places, ever.

Past Articles

  • Master and apprentices leave you thirsty for more 

    A collaboration between Thirsty Merc’s Rai Thistlethwayte and WAAPA’s contemporary music students showcases creativity and talent. It’s also loads of fun, writes Ara Jansen.

  • Blasko adds a tender touch to Twelfth Night

    Singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko may not seem like an obvious choice of composer for Bell Shakespeare’s retelling of Twelfth Night, but as she tells Ara Jansen, there’s more to this comedy than initially meets the eye.

Read Next

  • Reading time • 10 minutesFringe World Festival
  • Carina Roberts and Gakuro Matsui in The Nutcracker How to watch ballet

    How to watch ballet

    16 November 2023

    If you’ve booked tickets to Christmas favourite The Nutcracker and you’re not sure what to expect, look no further! Rita Clarke has you covered.

    Reading time • 10 minutesDance
  • Reading time • 7 minutesMulti-arts

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio


Cleaver Street Studio