IT’S taken nearly a decade to come to fruition, but Ros de Souza has finally realised her vision of transforming Woodsons Arcade in Fremantle into a free public art gallery.
The former arcade, running from Adelaide to Cantonment Street in the historic Woodsons building, has been repainted, tidied up and transformed into the “Creative Corridor” with artworks adorning the walls. The gallery will be shared by six creative partners who will each display artworks six weeks of the year.
“The Woodson’s Creative Corridor concept has been in my sights since 2014, but like so many ‘good ideas’, timing is everything,” says de Souza, an art facilitator and wife of renowned Freo painter Ian.
“Post covid-19 sparked an intense desire in me to bring beauty to some shabby areas of Fremantle.
“First, enhancing the dirty, empty shop windows in the CBD with the Street Gallery Fremantle project and now the Woodson Creative Corridor. Many people over the years have seen the potential of Woodsons Arcade but for one reason or another any projects initiated there, were short term.”
After de Souza got DADAA, which supports artists with physical and intellectual disabilities, and Fremantle Council onboard, the ball was well and truly rolling and she then persuaded CBC Fremantle, John Curtin College of the Arts, and The Studio School to sign-up.
De Souza’s Drawn Together – the Art of Life, which facilitates social initiatives, is also a partner.
Each made a one-off financial payment to upgrade the arcade and will have exclusive access eight weeks a year.
The agreement was endorsed by The Beale family, who own the Woodsons building and wanted it to remain a public thoroughfare.
De Souza says she is particularly proud that seniors students from All Saints’ Studio School – which places greater emphasis on real-world-projects – will oversee the space.
“The project will now be managed by committed senior students Ash and Lucy and friends from The Studio School,” she says.
“They will supervise the arcade, liaise with the partners when a change over is imminent, work with the curators, and feed relevant information into the Woodson Creative Corridor portal.
“All partners have been a joy to work with. The painter did a superb job. The decal supplier donated the signs. The transformation lifts the street and once the new lights are installed in Queen Street and Walyalup Koort – it will take that area to another level.”
DADAA became the first group to exhibit at the Woodson Creative Corridor, when it had its grand opening last Wednesday. Outside The Box features a diverse collection of artworks with everything from collage pop art to abstract paintings.
The Woodsons building has historic connections to Fremantle Port – it was built around 1898 and owned by wholesale grocers and importers “G Wood, Son and Co”.
The building was gutted by fire in 1915 and again in 1922 and rebuilt each time, and later purchased by Parry’s Department Store in 1975. Woodson Creative Corridor follows in the wake of the Street Gallery Fremantle project, a partnership between the City of Fremantle and Artsource to display artworks in empty shopfronts that otherwise would be boarded-up or become eyesores.
The Woodson Creative Corridor is a permanent art space open from 8.30am-5pm weekdays and 10am-4pm on weekends.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK