FyreGallery is a boutique fine art gallery specialising in works on paper and textiles. Located in the unique heritage listed town of Braidwood, NSW, FyreGallery is committed to an ethos of "beautiful, functional and sustainable". Since opening in 2005 FyreGallery has acquired a reputation for surprising and delighting clients and visitors alike. Exhibitions occur twice yearly in March/April and November/December.
Director, Cheryl Hannah, is committed to presenting high quality art to a new audience, showing works by emerging artists, as well as highly collectable international artists in association with Josef Lebovic Gallery. (Think Miro, Chagall, Picasso, Cezanne, Dali, Delaunay, Proctor, Palmer and Thorpe to name but a few).
Two Galleries – One Location
When gallery owner and Director, Cheryl Hannah established fYREGallery fine art prints in Braidwood in 2005, she was determined to create an impressive commercial gallery space at 84 Wallace St that would draw visitors and collectors locally and internationally. In 2011 Kelly Sturgiss opened her gallery at 85 Wallace St in Braidwood to showcase her talent for spotting the unusual in contemporary art and design. A very interesting art vibe quickly emerged.
Cheryl and Kelly knew that they shared a passion for showing and selling beautiful art but then, in 2012, in a moment of serendipity, an opportunity arose for Cheryl and Kelly to join forces. Both wanted to keep their galleries distinct but both were looking for ways to improve their sustainability. Solution: share the space at 84 Wallace St; have two galleries in one location.
In an innovative “time-share” arrangement Kelly Sturgiss rents her gallery space from owner Cheryl Hannah during the months between fYREGallery shows. STUR GALLERY inside fYREGALLERY is a gallery, photostudio and art gift shop owned by Kelly Sturgiss. Kelly’s gallery focuses on the contemporary and her gift shop contains items created by local designers, books relating to the area or written by local authors, and other beautiful pieces sourced by Kelly.
Cheryl continues to exhibit twice a year, (April and November), as she has done for the past ten years. Specializing in fine art works on paper and textile fYREGallery is committed to bringing high quality international and Australian prints to a new audience.
fYREGALLERY and STUR Gallery - do you want to know more? An article by YOLANDE NORRIS
When I arrived in Braidwood just over a year ago it struck me as a town with a huge number of independent, intelligent, creative and hardworking women. I couldn’t be sure that this was just my perception or perhaps a magnification of Australian women everywhere, but whatever the case, it has been a surprise benefit of joining the community. One micro-study of this apparent phenomenon exists in a collective of entrepreneurial women behind the understated shop front fašade of 84 Wallace Street.
Like me, Cheryl Hannah spent years regularly travelling through Braidwood from her home in Canberra. Artists in the area were a particular draw card, and she and partner Dr Helen McKenna would visit at least annually to see exhibitions by makers such as ceramicist Suzanne Bellamy. On a visit in late 2004 they saw that the building at 84 Wallace was for sale, dilapidated but full of promise and potential. This was the pull towards setting up in town more permanently, as was the inherent opportunity for Cheryl to realise one of her life-long ambitions, having been an avid art collector for 40 years.
Fyre Gallery was established as a boutique fine art gallery, with a focus on works on paper and textiles. Cheryl presents two major exhibitions a year and likes to support artists to hold solo exhibitions, some of whom don’t necessarily have the resources to get their work out in public. She commissions these shows well in advance, and keeps in touch with them as they are making work in what is very much a collaborative process. The remaining time she operates from her office and stockroom at the rear of the gallery. She also trades online in highly collectable Patsy dolls, as another project and passion, and works with a wide range of overseas galleries to share art and artists internationally. As a private gallery Cheryl is unconstrained in what she pursues, with true independence to ‘set the taste and set the pace’.
The gallery dream had long been postponed, while Cheryl chose qualifications in international relations and strategic studies and went on to pursue a career in the public service. Working hard over two decades she had the opportunity to travel the world, look and collect, think about art, while gathering the financial backing to get started.
Meanwhile, in 2010, Kelly Sturgiss was busily establishing her own business, with a mission to showcase contemporary art in Braidwood. Kelly’s family reaches back a full seven generations in the region, including daughter Pepper. She went away to study art, but returned driven to follow her passion in the town that she called home. An exhibiting artist in her own right Kelly has decided she wants to stay in Braidwood and give back to the community via her wide range of skills and learnings.
Stur Gallery was established, and after an early shift of venue Kelly found herself at 85 Wallace Street, across the road from Cheryl. Though she knew little about business she navigated her way with her own taste and instinct, managing a full exhibitions program as well as a shop stocking hard-to-find brands she admired and the work of creative locals.
When the building was sold suddenly in 2012 it looked as though Stur might be over just as it had begun to gain momentum. It was the point at which Cheryl, admiring Kelly’s work representing contemporary art in a regional area, approached her with an innovative business proposition. Stur Gallery inside Fyre Gallery.
The ‘one location, two gallery’ model is not entirely a new invention, and other examples can be found in similar initiatives in London, emerging as a response to the global financial crisis. From Cheryl’s perspective the arrangement is about making the best use of the facilities, while still maintaining her model of two shows a year. Kelly has use of the space for the remainder of the year for a subsidised rate.
It offers each a ‘colleague’ with whom they can share ideas, offer information and advice while gaining added visibility for each business. It certainly takes effort, good communication and forward planning, but ultimately provides the opportunity to make the space work for all involved.
Like Cheryl, Kelly has many strings to her bow. Alongside running the Stur Gallery and Store she teaches art workshops and piano, maintains her own art practice as well as offering professional photography and graphic design services. This way she gets to do her thing while also being present for her daughter’s childhood. What may be lacking financially is balanced by a high quality of life and creative satisfaction.
In the twice-yearly changeovers to make way for the Fyre Gallery program (April and November) Kelly finds opportunity to revamp and reinvent Stur, the most recent example being the addition of dressmaker and designer Dena Pharaoh to the creative/cooperative mix. It’s a maturing of the model, making one space on the main street work for three individuals and their respective endeavors.
Dena arrived in Braidwood of January this year, and Kelly laughingly admits to literally chasing her down the street so that they might meet. Her hunch about their compatibility was correct, as they discovered they were the same age, have lived similar lives and share the same tastes.
STUR had always been a big undertaking for Kelly, requiring her to be in the store every day while also raising a child as a single parent and studying for her masters. Dena, stepping back from a professional career in Sydney and keen for a change, came into the mix at the perfect time. She now shares the day-to-day running of Stur while offering her dressmaking services from the premises. The duo help one another with their children, weaving their creative pursuits around a seven-day business week and the eternal 3pm school pick-up.
There is a beautiful stagger to the intersecting of these lives. Kelly with her lifelong connection to the town and community, Cheryl’s decade of contribution to it, and Dena coming up on her year-long anniversary in Braidwood. Three women, doing separate things, coming from different places at different times in life, but getting there together.
It’s no secret that life can be tough for a business owner in Braidwood, but thanks to the trickle-down of subsidised rent, the diversity and flexibility of the operations it houses and the vision of all involved 84 Wallace Street can remain vibrant and relevant. It’s a story of the strength that can be found in intergenerational support and the sharing of resources. Cheryl has had opportunities to accumulate the capital that enabled her to buy a commercial building, and to establish a business with a level of security behind her. She is the first to recognise that for a raft of reasons many women don't always get that opportunity. Now she is interested in being the person who gives a hand up to those coming behind, in investing in something cooperative and collaborative.
She points out that through clever partnerships “we are not beholden to anyone but ourselves, because we own the means of our own production.” Kelly agrees, and is spurred on by the growing realisation that she and her contemporaries “are the future of the town. We’re the present and the future and the past. We are the people.” In each of these cases, it’s women doing it for themselves.
Yolande Norris is a Braidwood-based writer and arts producer. You can read more of her work at uselesslines.wordpress.com
Santa Fe Art Sojourn (or what I did on my holidays) by Cheryl Hannah
New Mexico in late winter is snowy one day and sunny the next. During my recent 5 week visit to Santa Fe NM I experienced the full gamut: up to my knees in the snow at Hyde Park ski run one day, then strolling around the plaza in front of the 400 year old Palace of the Governors in a t-shirt a few days later.
Why New Mexico? Well, regular visitors to Braidwood over the past 10 years will know fYREGALLERY shows works on paper by a range of American artists from my contacts in California, New Mexico and New York. After several years of poor health had kept me at home I was finally able to travel again and headed straight back to the USA. I had a wonderful time catching up with artists, seeing galleries and generally stocking up for future shows. For those who recall our 2009 “Under New Mexico Skies” exhibition, the names of the artists AnaMaria Samaniego and Sandra Duran Wilson will be familiar. This past February I had a great time staying with them in their studios, seeing their latest work. Watching AnaMaria etching a plate for her 2015 summer print edition was an education for me; she worked on it for up to 5 hours a day every day and after about 3 weeks she was still only half way through the process. Such is the dedication of a master printmaker. Sandra was equally hard at work experimenting with new forms for her painted plexiglass forms for a solo show she is having at Lacuna Galleries in June this year. We had many discussions about how to bring their work back to Australia and finally agreed on another New Mexico show in fYREGALLERY for November 2017.
Santa Fe is home to over 500 fine art galleries. It has been a centre of modern American art-making since the early 20thC and home to the indigenous art of the Southern Pueblo Indian peoples for over 1,000 years. It is a mecca for art lovers from all over the United States and the world. So it is very exciting for fYREGALLERY to have secured “associate gallery” status with one of the newest fine art galleries in Santa Fe, the luminous Lacuna Galleries. Lacuna’s owners, Sheryle and Olaf Moon, are Australians who have taken the plunge to live and work in Santa Fe. I was thrilled when they invited me to visit them and to be given the chance to introduce NM artists I have represented for many years into Lacuna’s portfolio of exhibitors.
After a few days of visiting galleries on the famous Canyon Rd and finding exciting new ones on Lincoln Ave and in the Railway Precinct I headed out from Santa Fe to see the UNESCO world heritage site at Taos Pueblo via Poeh. Local Pueblo tribes have distinctive styles of pottery decoration and body ornamentation. The young guides at the Poeh Pueblo owned and run gallery were delighted to show me intricacies of their particular symbols and totems, watched over by “Harry” a reminder of the buffalo herds of old.
In Taos itself I wandered through the lanes and alleys of the old town and discovered surprising Braidwood resonances. Who would have guessed that there would be a quilt shop? It is run by the charming Jan O’Donohue serving quilters from all around the USA with local fabrics of every Western iconic image imaginable? Fifty kinds of printed cowboy boots fabric - no problem!
Dragging myself away from the textiles I continued on down legendary Kit Carson Avenue to discover a treasure trove of art glass at David Anthony Fine Art as well as a completely unexpected opportunity to see paintings by Tina Mion. Her show, “Spectacular Death Spoons” had some of her earlier paintings on loan from other institutions so I saw her 1997 “Stop-Action Reaction, Jacqueline Kennedy, King of Hearts”. I could not supress a yelp of glee.
Things like that seemed to happen to me almost every day my a magical New Mexico mystery tour. In the tiny town of Truchas I discovered Hand Art Fine Art Gallery that has been promoting its artitists for 50 years since the owner moved there as “hippie” in 1965. Oh how I wished for a bigger suitcase – he had pieces that were irrisitable to me. We talked art and artists and how he had built the house-gallery room by room over the years adding new spaces to display bigger and bigger sculptures while he and his very patient wife continued to carry water to the house from an outside well. I was pleased to learn that this past Summer he had built their long anticipated bathroom because after numerous cups of coffee over several hours I was in dire need of its amenity. I left with two paintings by Carolyn Lamuniere safely stowed in the trunk (not the “boot” by the way) having decided that I would worry about getting them home later .
Temptations continued to offer themselves at every turn but not all my holiday was spent drooling over them. There are many serious issues confronting the lives of ordinary folk in New Mexico. It is the poorest State in the Union by most economic measures so many families have sons and daughters serving in the military in order to access education and medical care for their families. It is the source of stress and heartbreak to many who feel that America’s recent wars have gone on too long and cost too much blood and treasure. I went out on the weekly Friday protest with my friend Mark Licht and his colleague Ken Meyers from Veterans for Peace who, together with several dozen others, have been protesting the waste of war standing with placcards on Cerrillo Cnr every week in all weather since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I was humbled by their commitment and inspired by the work Ken does globally to help veterans. Affordable housing is critical for many tribal people who do not have secure access to traditional lands. Water, or more importantly the chronic lack of it, is an enormous challenge. Like all the states surrounding New Mexico it is also in chronic drought. The once mighty Rio Grande is more like a trickle at the bottom of a concrete drain as it dribbles through down town Santa Fe at the end of the historic Santa Fe Trail. Snow fallingl was for me something of a novelty and pretty backdrop to my photos but for my friends and colleagues they eyed each late season snow storm with rising concern. Much more snowfall was needed to guarantee water for the coming months. Not nearly enough had fallen and the Spring thaw had already begun.
My last few days were spent saying my farewells in between frenetic last minute gallery hopping. After visiting 50 galleries and interviwing 47 gallery owners and directors in Santa Fe itself I knew that I had only scratched the surface. Neverteless I felt satisfied that I had made the most of my time. I felt refreshed and re-invigorated. My confidence in the direction of fYREGALLERY was boosted by the positive feedback I received from owners and artists along the way. Future opportunities to cooperate and collaborate with Lacuna Galleries and others in Santa Fe are tangible. My tagline that Braidwood is like the NM town of Madrid – with better buildings was warmly received by those who could see the humour (and truth) of it. Madrid NM was a gold mining town, has a history stretching back 150 years, is 60 minutes drive from Santa Fe and is now the heartland of creative art making, galleries and even the setting for a few Hollywood movies…sound familiar? Surely we can find a way to cross- promote our galleries when we have so much in common.
My last port of call this trip was the Tamarind Institute in Albuqurque where I spent a few hours being enchanted and astonsished by the quality and range of the print-making this world-famouos indstitution has achieved. I have always wanted to go there as Tamarind is known for its contribution to the growth of contemporary printmaking around the world and continues to provide professional training and creative opportunities for artists. Stowing the two Miguel Gandert photo-lithographs I purchased from the gallery shop into my already bulging suitcase I headed to the airport for my Los Angeles flight and onwards home. It seemed a fitting end to my New Mexico sojourn. Next stop for the Ganderts was to be the wall of fYREGALLERY for URBANITE and so the show goes on.