Loving literature: Gallery Association members Marg Jeffery and Amanda McGraw launched the Club as an alternative way connect the community with art. Photo: CHIPPY RIVERA

Ideas and friendship in Gallery Book Club

January 12, 2021 BY

MEETING bi-monthly, the Art Gallery of Ballarat Book & Film Club is aiming to encourage informal arts-based conversation in a friendly and inclusive environment.

Run by the Gallery’s Association, it’s an initiative of former English teachers Marg Jeffery and Amanda McGraw who have a passion for literature and the arts.

“It’s a great way for us to do something different for the members, bring them in for a social event, create a space that enables us to foster some dialogue around arts-related ideas, and connect texts with exhibitions happening at the Gallery,” Ms McGraw said.

People of all ages and genders are welcome at the “democratic, comfortable” meetings, where there’s no vocal dominance, and every person has an opportunity to get involved and share their thoughts.

“We want to encourage people who are really interested in art, but aren’t necessarily artists or are practicing careers in art, to get some kind of insight into the art world,” Ms Jeffery said.

“A few people have been regulars, but sometimes people pop up, like school teachers, who we’ve never met but are particularly interested in the artists we’re discussing.”

Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the art of being alone will be discussed during February’s meeting; the first for 2021

“Some of the books that we’ve read and explored have perhaps focused more on a character and what’s happened to them, but there is always some connection to art in some way.

“The upcoming book is based in New York, the character is in her mid-30s, and it touches on artists like Andy Warhol and Edward Hopper,” Ms Jeffery said.

The Club’s last text looked at the life of Australian visual artist Brett Whiteley and participants were also able to view the film Whiteley if they weren’t able to read the book.

“We’ve moved away from the idea of being totally a book club to get a mixture of people involved, and engage with fiction and non-fiction,” Ms Jeffery said.

The Book & Film Club runs from 5.30pm on Monday evenings, every couple of months and attendance can be “fluid,” not requiring any ongoing commitment.

The Monday, 15 February meeting will be facilitated online. The Association is looking to run a mix of in-house and virtual events in the coming year, so those who can’t get to the Gallery can still access events from home.

Face-to-face meetings usually run for two hours, with wine and cheese available. In the past, they’ve attracted between 20 and 40 participants who sit in a round for a relaxed discussion.

Participants don’t need to be a part of the Association, but the Gallery encourages the community to consider becoming a member to support the historical, cultural institution.

Visit artgalleryofballarat.com.au/events to register.