Sample the delights of Northern Rivers at this year’s MAT

Murwillumbah Arts Trail weaves a tantalising net of pop-up exhibitions, established galleries, street art, public art, and film meshed with performance, food and celebration to bring you an annual arts experience for all the senses.

The Murwillumbah Arts Trail (MAT19) is first and foremost a celebration of the region’s arts and artists, but also invites visitors to taste many of the area’s cultural delights. Now in its fifth incarnation, the MAT19 will showcase over fifty contemporary artists from the Tweed region. From 16 to 19 May, the glorious art deco town of Murwillumbah becomes the gallery for clever art in surprising places.

Performance, food and fun combine in an eclectic four day program which is sure to have something for everyone. View the stunning rainforests of Tumbulgum and surrounds from the deck of a Tweed Valley Cruise, where you can sip wine, dine on local cheese platters and glory in the ancient profile of Mount Warning (Wollumbin). Most days you will spot rare and beautiful birds of the region by the banks, and if you are lucky you may get a powerful view at sunset, with orange and crimson hues making a magical magenta blanket for Wollumbin’s serene peaks. Tour operator Michael Simmons will keep all visitors entertained with the fascinating – and at times humorous – history of the region.

From a different vantage point, you can stand at the peak of Wollumbin without hiking a single step outdoors, as you gaze at the extraordinary detail within the huge panoramic painting that sits within the Caldera Wildscapes gallery, a six-artist effort that took a full year to complete. Lead artist Andy Reimanis runs a weekly art class in the workshop next to the painting, where visitors are welcome to come and gawk at the fine detail and bright colours of the works in progress by local artists, largely covering the unique flora and fauna of the green cauldron.

“People tend to spend a little while here,” explains Andy. “It’s a perspective that most don’t get to see.” And in fact, more people probably shouldn’t. The park incorporates lands of traditional significance to the local Bundjalung people, who respectfully request that people do not climb it, making the panorama your best best for a viewing (and with no sweating involved, either!)

The name Wollumbin quite aptly means ‘cloud-catcher’, and undoubtedly, visiting art-lovers would have their choice of views, perspectives and styles of the famous mountain to view and even take home themselves during the event, as it is a popular subject with local artists.

Set in an industrial warehouse and classic Art Deco building in Murwillumbah, M|Arts Precinct is a vibrant place where artists and art lovers can come together over great coffee, food and art. While still in its infancy, the warehouse brings together much that is wonderful about the region, with galleries, studios, local photography, food, coffee and even knitting and crochet classes on offer. The town’s art deco vibes are delightfully captured in the venue, with even the portaloos decked out to within an inch of their lives.

Upstairs in the precinct is Gallery DownTown, annexe of one of the State’s most recognised regional galleries, Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre (TRGMOAC). The small gallery already boasts an impressive collection, with local artists local subjects in strong focus. Curator Ruth Della is no stranger to the arts world, having recently taken over the role after an extensive tenure as one of the directors of SWELL Sculpture Exhibition.

“There’s nothing pretentious about this space,” she tells us on our visit, and we wholly agree. The space is bright and welcoming, and has just seen a large group of excited children through for a mini sculpture workshop utilising found objects, while carefully curated pieces nestle on the pristine white walls, polished floorboards underfoot. “It’s a place for everyone, like a home for the community really,” says Ruth.

The entire M|Arts precinct will be a major hub during the MAT19, with new exhibitions in the galleries, a program of 14 fabulous workshops with local artists and makers, performance art, a community weaving project, as well as pop-up exhibitions, open studios, a DJ, live art performance and more.

The Makers and Finders Market is a special artisan street market gives visitors the opportunity to peruse numerous stall displays, collect, source and commission unique handmade works and of course meet, greet and speak with artists and designers in person, monthly throughout the year and on the Saturday during MAT19. All art and products are locally designed by local artisans, with local buskers displaying their talents also. Shoppers can find everything from quirky furniture design and stunning fashion through to intricate jewellery and unique paintings.

Then there’s the food. The multitude of premium, sustainable produce that comes from the lush, green, volcanic region has earned the area quite the reputation among Australia’s food set, with a few foodie-inspired events each year attracting visitors from all over. One such event is the Harvest Festival, run by Northern Rivers Food, a not-for-profit member based food group. It was established by people in the food industry who support the “paddock to the plate” food industry in the Northern Rivers. Co-Founder Pam Brook (of Brook Farms) explains a little about the region’s success in the food industry.

“Producers here are all so passionate about what they do, it reflects in the finished product.” Predominantly comprised of smaller farms, the Northern Rivers Food membership is big on sustainability.

“One of the things that [the organisation] does is bring people together to learn new things, to develop new ways of improving their businesses,” says Pam. “There’s an incredible sense of connection between people who technically may even be competitors, and it makes everybody better for it.”

In that spirit, award-winning Tweed Foodie Fest is once again joining forces with the Murwillumbah Arts Trail in 2019 to showcase the culinary creativity and gastronomic diversity of the Tweed’s food industries. Enjoy the ambience of the marketplace then go on a journey from restaurant to restaurant enjoying the tastes and talents of the town in a progressive dinner style. A selection of the Tweed’s best cafes and restaurants will offer $10 tasting plates showcasing the fresh produce of the Tweed. Stone & Wood, Husk Distillers and Pickled Pig beverages will compliment the feast of flavours on offer, and guests can book a table for 10 people at $15 per person for BYO seating.

A major sponsor of the MAT, Tweed Foodie Fest is also organising the musical program on the main stage, which includes Mantlepeace, Rosie Misschief, Leash, and a range of classical and group performances as well as a specialty bar selling some of the Tweed’s finest hand-crafted products. With circus, music, buskers and much more, the main street of Murwillumbah will essentially become a non-stop hive of activity with something on offer for all ages.

“We are very excited to be offering an exceptional cuisine experience as part of the 2019 Murwillumbah Arts Trail. What better way to enjoy a weekend in the Tweed than to view exceptional art, experience a program of fantastic music, purchase hand crafted items from the artisan market and eat amazing food,” said Kerry Turner, Tweed Foodie Fest Director.

There will also be local produce a-plenty for hungry diners to sample at local cafes, pubs, stores and markets, including Venetian-style eatery Bacaro, nestled at the bottom of the M|Arts precinct. You can read more about our visit to Bacaro here.

With so much to do and see over the four days, you’ll probably want to make a holiday of it. Accommodation is available locally from pub style, through to B&B and – a little further out, the luxe rainforest surrounds of Ecoasis in Uki, which is where we stayed on our visit.

An absolute must-do for nature lovers, these high set chalets overlook a mind-blowing amount of greenery, and are set up with rainfall tanks and done in hues of browns and green which compliment rather than intrude upon the landscape. Ceiling to floor glass doors and huge balconies provide uninterrupted views of the trees and the 7km rainforest trail can be tackled in the early morning before returning to your full kitchen stocked with local eggs, bread and juice for a well-earned refuel (followed by a warm spa bath in your ensuite, if you wish). Bliss! Only 25 minutes from town, you can get a group of friends or family to share a lift, or draw straws for designated driver. Helpful family owners Peter and Karissa are on site full time to attend to any of the guest’s needs.

As you can see, the MAT19 delivers on all fronts. We could not possibly encompass all that the event had to offer on our two visits, especially since for the first time, four local villages have been included in the program. Your best bet is to view the program yourself at murwillumbahartstrail.com.au, or download the handy app that will allow you to navigate the full list of main events, village events, and get a map of the local area.

Murwillumbah Arts Trail runs from 16 to 19 May, 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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