Wherever you visit around the world, you will find natural wonders, new taste sensations, historic landmarks, and art galleries highlighting the creativity and extraordinary talents of the local people. Norfolk Island is no exception.
One of Norfolk’s popular galleries is Gallery Guava, picturesquely situated on the corner of Mulberry Lane and Queen Elizabeth Avenue. As the entry point for Fletcher’s Mutiny Cyclorama, Gallery Guava is one of the most frequently visited attractions on Norfolk Island, but on any day, you will find several locals browsing the artworks alongside the visitors. This is because the gallery is a well-loved feature of Island life.
This year marks the gallery’s twentieth anniversary, which is quite an achievement considering the serendipitous start to its existence. Gallery Guava’s owners, Norfolk Islander Tracey Yager and fellow artist, Sue Draper hadn’t intended to open a gallery when they holidayed on Norfolk in 1997. Tracey was returning home after years spent living abroad and in Australia and Sue was visiting Norfolk for the first time. Tracey was a professional water-colourist who had a thriving career in Queensland’s Noosa Heads and Sue was an Interior Designer who painted for pleasure in her spare time.
However, when they saw a vacant building at the airport end of Taylors Road, the idea of opening a gallery there to showcase their own and other local artists’ work held a magnetic appeal. Despite the many reasons against this crazy plan, they decided to give it a go for six months and see what happened.
To their surprise, Gallery Guava provided not only rewarding career and lifestyle changes for both Sue and Tracey, it proved itself a viable business proposition. Six months stretched to twelve and on it went. The gallery had casual opening hours, allowing time for beachcombing, art-making and sunset socializing and it gave many of the island’s talented artists across a range of media an outlet for their work.
Then local identity and founder of the first tour business on Norfolk, Marie Bailey, approached Tracey and Sue with an intriguing proposition. For years she had wanted to construct a new tourist attraction consisting of a panoramic painting or cyclorama to tell the story of the Norfolk Island people. After accepting this challenge, Tracey and Sue no longer spent leisurely hours on the beach or in the gallery’s studio. Shut away from sunlight, they painted the story of the Bounty mutiny and Pitcairn Islanders from dawn to dusk. But Gallery Guava was held in such affection that for two years, friends and colleagues voluntarily kept its door open while the girls painted almost seventy years of vivid history in the building behind them.
Gallery Guava opened in its current location in 2001 and today exhibits works by 18 artists who are both local, expatriate locals and frequent visitors. Some of them have been with Gallery Guava since it opened. From their original collection of paintings and sculptural installations, the gallery has expanded to include the work of four different jewellers, three bone carvers, ceramics, glassware and paintings in an ever-increasing range of media. They also have their own giftware lines, designed by Sue and Tracey and printed or made on Norfolk Island.
Just as Gallery Guava has broadened its range and scope, so too have its owners. Tracey continues to create stunning watercolours but these have been joined by bold acrylics on board and wall pieces constructed of painted, engraved or carved recycled timber. Sue has branched out from oils and acrylics of landscapes and still-life to sculptural painting onto three dimensional pieces of wood or weathered driftwood.
Yet no matter how much their work has changed, what has underpinned it over the past twenty years, is an abiding admiration for Norfolk Island’s natural and cultural heritage. Perhaps this explains why Gallery Guava enjoys such enduring popularity and affection with locals and visitors. Though the works are amazingly varied and refreshingly different from each other, the talented people who have created them, have the same message of love and respect for Norfolk Island and its people.
Not only is Gallery Guava a model of entrepreneurial spirit, it has also delivered a wonderfully collaborative, beautiful love song to Norfolk Island for twenty creative years. Literally thousands of people around the world have precious mementoes of Norfolk Island adorning their homes and work spaces thanks to that holiday inspiration to turn an old building into an art gallery.
To celebrate Gallery Guava’s milestone 20th anniversary, Sue and Tracey are having a special combined artists’ exhibition. As many of the gallery’s artists are producing new works, there will be plenty to explore and enjoy at Gallery Guava this festive season.
For more information on Gallery Guava and Fletcher’s Mutiny Cyclorama please visit:
Image Credit: Robin Nisbet
Article content disclaimer: Article first published in Discover Norfolk, Volume 02 Issue 01, 2018. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.