THE ART VAULT

An icon of Mildura’s arts scene will close its doors for the final time this weekend.

The Art Vault was established in 2008 by Julie and the late Kevin Chambers and, in its 14 years, has showcased a diverse exhibition program, featuring the work of hundreds of local, national, international and indigenous artists.

While she admits she’s been too busy finalising the closure to fully process the occasion, Julie took time this week to reflect on the past 16 years.

“It was such a wonderful experience, the whole thing,” she said.

The former Commonwealth Bank building on Deakin Avenue was derelict and in much need of repair when the Chambers bought it 16 years ago.

But with Julie’s vision for the space, the building was demolished and rebuilt in sections, and extended to include the second storey at the back, while maintaining the original bank vault and art deco facade.

After two years of construction, The Art Vault was officially opened in 2008 by Robyn Archer and Julian Burnside QC, with hundreds in attendance.

The enthusiasm and following for The Art Vault continued on from that day, with the venue going on to host exhibitions by artists from all around the world.

The Art Vault also hosted more than 200 artists-in-residence, many of whom have returned time and again.

The Art Vault was privately-funded and offered gallery space, studio space and printmaking facilities all on-site. That unique combination was part of what made the space so attractive to exhibiting artists, artists-in-residence and workshop facilitators.

“What I’m proud of is that so many wanted to come back and repeat their stays, and that the word spread,” Julie said.

“A lot of the artists used Mildura as a resource for their work. There are so many artworks that are based around the people and environment of Mildura.”

Julie said the past 16 years had been a wonderful journey.

“It allowed me to do something new and creative for myself,” she said.

“I’ve had the most wonderful team of staff who have been with me from the beginning. I’m very proud of them and what they’ve contributed as well.”

While The Art Vault’s closure marks the end of one chapter in Mildura’s arts scene, Julie hopes it’s not the end of an era.

“There are so many creative people here in Mildura. I hope that the Council, in particular, will support the arts. They are the soul of the community and they document our history,” she said.

“I hope that me leaving the scene will create an opportunity for someone else to do something.

“It’s someone else’s turn.”

The gallery at 43 Deakin Avenue, which is now hosting its final art sale, will be open until this Saturday, November 27.