Built in the 1920’s The Nicholas building was the first high-rise building in Melbourne. City officials wanted a consistent skyline established, and this was the first. Back then it would have stood prominent with views out to the Yarra River. Things have caught up around it now of course, the souvenir shops and boutiques below distract from what originally was such a dominating building. We enter through Cathedral Arcade, a beautifully ornate, lead-light dome ceiling passageway from Flinders Lane to Swanston Street.
On level 7 there is a newly opened gallery space called Cage Me A Peacock and we meet those responsible for starting the venture - Charlotte St Clair Wilson, Billi Lime, and Annie Murray, missing here today is Shelly O’Meara. Their backgrounds range from filmmaking, performance, policy, law, animation, dance and music. A multitude of creative experience, coming together to assist and encourage even more of that here. After returning to Melbourne from a stint in L.A., Charlotte heard about a space in the building becoming available and on a bit of a whim decided she wanted to make it into something.
When they first got the room, the walls were a hideous off-yellow and the window frames were half painted in an odd 70's lime green. After a month of hard graft they transformed the space into a beautiful gallery where the heritage windows are now the main feature of the room. The space is versatile, designed to adapt to each artist's requirements. A floating divider separates the back rentable studio to the front gallery area.
Taking on artists for 3 week rolling exhibitions, which include an opening/closing event, along with a monthly animation and sound art night; there is certainly a buzz about the place.
“Most of our openings end in a dance party and lots of drinks, that kind of fun, event-style opening I think makes us a little different from other spaces. We really want to build a creative community around the space who are welcoming and interested in ideas.”
Often galleries can be a little stuck up or elitist in deciding whose works they show and unless you come from an art school background you may not get a look in. Making the jump from creating, to actually exhibiting can be hard for artists. At the Cage, the girls want anybody to feel they can exhibit here, regardless of their background.
“We want to make the art gallery experience accessible and not intimidating and to appeal to a broader audience than those who regularly attend galleries.”
Although most of Melbourne’s artistic community has moved north, Charlotte likes the idea of reclaiming the city. Being in the Nicholas Building has a certain magic, “it’s like a vertical creative precinct, with over 100 studios across 10 levels full of artists, jewelers, milliners, architects, games designers, fashion designers, you name a creative pursuit and someone in the building is a master! It gives us a whole artistic community to join, full of fascinating people.”
Perhaps due to the tyranny of distance, Australia’s art scene is unique, and Melbourne has a distinct voice which can be anti-authoritarian, humorous and cheeky. It’s great to find so much creativity in one place. If you would like to discover the latest offering, head to Cage Me A Peacock, Room 707, Level 7, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street.
You can also visit www.cagemeapeacock.com for more info on this beautiful gallery.
Words by Netta Justice
Photos by Sarah Caust
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