— observations from the Blue Mountains Design Bureau —

A Wild Valley

Located on 17 acres of pristine bushland on the north western fringe of Wentworth Falls is a unique new art venture, Wild Valley Art Park. Founded in 2012 by husband & wife team Selena Seifert and Jasper Russell, the park was inspired as much by the natural beauty of the site and the existing facilities, as it was by this creative pair’s desire to share the inspirational qualities of the natural beauty of our mountains with other aspiring artists.

Photo courtesy of Jasper Russell, Wild Valley Art Park

Originally built as a sustainable village project by Mission Australia in a disused quarry, it most recently operated as the environmental organisation, Planet Ark’s headquarters. An impressive solar array of 300 panels and a series of lakes, wetlands & water tanks, has created a truly ‘self sustainable’ enterprise. The mud brick buildings now house a gallery space, four artist studios, and two workshop areas for art, yoga and drama classes as well as a continually evolving sculpture garden.

With nothing but the sounds of birdlife and the morning light filtering through the bush, this really is a delightful place to ‘salute the sun’, or bring your young aspiring artist for one of the many kid’s art workshops on offer. Banksia Eco Cottage also located on site provides family friendly accommodation for those who wish to soak up the ambience for a more extended period of time.

When did you start Wild Valley Art Park and how did you get into this?

It has been a bit of a long art filled journey that has brought us to Wild Valley. I originally studied at The National Art School and then later at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney. I work as a practising artist and have taught workshops in mosaics and painting in many art centres in Sydney before starting Scribbly Bark Studio in Wentworth Falls. With the establishment of Wild Valley in 2012, I undertook an arts administration course at St George School of Fine Arts and now I run the gallery and workshop programs here. My husband and business partner, Jasper is Wild Valley’s web and graphic designer as well as the caretaker for the property.

What do you love most about Wild Valley Art Park?

There’s so much. We love the natural environment here; the ducks, the wetland birds and the many frogs – it feeds our creativity. To us, the challenge is to  fill these beautiful surrounds with harmonious artworks. We recently added a sculpture called ‘Habitat’ by Mike McGregor that is made of forged recycled steel and it is built as a habitat for micro bats. I really love how the sculpture blends with our environment here. It already has some resident micro bats that you can just see peering out of the sculpture.

What drives your creative direction?

The amazing artists and teachers we meet through Wild Valley are a constant inspiration. There is so much talent in the mountains and so much interesting work being created. Our gallery not only showcases local painters and photographers but also artists working with recycled materials. Scott Baker creates beautiful wood assemblages, Birte Larsen weaves installations out of recycled plastic, Peter Schoemark creates quirky recycled metal sculptures and Michiyo Miwa paints beautiful sumi-e Japanese Ink paintings. We try to bring a unique range of workshop programs to Wild Valley that are created out of the interesting and diverse bodies of work our artists practise in.

Who or what is exciting you right now?

We are very excited about our upcoming inaugural ‘Draw on The Mountain’, a drawing festival that will be running in September 2013 in partnership with Norman Lindsay Gallery, Scenic World and The Kedumba Collection. The festival features an innovative sketchbook trail across the mountains that culminates in a competition prize of $5,000. The festival will feature workshops with prominent artists, exhibitions across the locations and events.

What advice would you give others wanting to get into your field?

Never stop learning and creating. Working in the arts can be constantly stimulating and changing, so it’s important to feed your creativity and try new ideas and connect with other artists and practitioners. Challenge yourself and take risks!

What are your favourite things to do in the mountains?

I love seeking out new things, I always have a list of places that I still haven’t visited or experienced. I also enjoy visiting many of the great natural wonders that attract the tourists but that we locals often overlook, such as the stunning walks at Wentworth Falls, drinks at The Fairmont, Carrington or Lillianfels or visiting the peaceful  Jurassic Valley rainforest floor at Scenic World. I also enjoy visiting some of the incredible private gardens. I love feeling like I’m on holidays – even if it’s just for a couple of hours.

Your perfect mountains weekend…

An equally divided amount of time in my studio, time with visitors in the Wild Valley gallery capped off with a walk around Wild Valley (our secret waterfall is a bit of a favourite), finished off with champagne and home made pizza on the deck with friends.

  WORDS Libby Sullivan IMAGES Camille Walsh 

Wild Valley Art Park

321 Blaxland Rd Wentworth Falls.

Gallery open every Saturday & Sunday 10am-4pm

For more info about Art Workshops, The Drawing Festival or  Banksia Eco Cottage visit www.wildvalley.com.au

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