A year after opening in the throes of a pandemic, Max Galleria is the beating heart of Tewantin’s creative hub
by SEANNA CRONIN
When you walk into Max Galleria, Jane Parker’s bright and finely detailed paintings will likely be the first thing to catch your eye.
Then your attention might turn to gallery owner Maxine Stibbe’s tribute to the endemic flora and fauna of the Noosa Shire – a painting featuring everything from pandanus and bunya trees to the wallum sedge frog and Richmond birdwing butterfly.
But there are small treasures here too. There’s handmade jewellery by an 85-year-old German artist, chokers made from the repurposed fabric of wedding saris and pottery by Rowley Drysdale, the nephew of famed Australian painter Russell Drysdale.
Art has taken her around the world – from Mexico to New York and London – but it’s the wealth of talent in the Noosa Shire that now inspires Maxine.
The multi-platform artist opened Max Galleria in Tewantin Plaza just over a year ago in the middle of the pandemic.
After managing a gallery on Hamilton Island and having her own studio and gallery, Art@16, in Noosaville, Maxine was looking for a new space.
But what started as a solo endeavour quickly transformed into a space for local artists, both established and emerging, to showcase their work.
“It’s about having a venue and giving artists the opportunity; the artwork speaks for itself,” she says.
“There’s that much talent in this shire, and that was the epiphany after two weeks of getting the keys.”
Within a month of opening the gallery doors, Maxine staged her first exhibition Catalyst-18 featuring the work of 18 artists from across southeast Queensland.
In the past year, amid Covid restrictions and lockdowns, she’s held six exhibitions, each including an emerging artist mentored by Maxine, and dozens of workshops.
“In such uncertain times, I wanted to lift the spirits of our shire,” she says.
“Art is a healing modality; community art actually heals the community.
“I’ve got an Indigenous gallery next door and augmented reality art over the road at Bendigo Bank, which is pretty hip for little Tewantin. We’re slowly starting to get a creative industries hub happening here.”
Maxine’s passion for art started with a ceramics class at the age of seven. The Brisbane native became a professional artist with her first pay check from Arts Queensland at 16 and went on to study horticulture before moving to the Coast in 1992.
“Of course when you finish school in Brisbane you go straight to the Gold Coast and dance all night and surf all morning,” she says.
“I had a friend who lived up here and I fell in love with it. I was craving nature. I rented this huge house in Peregian. I was a landscaper back then, but I still had my art practice.”
She went on to study multimedia arts, ceramics and sculpture before becoming part of the first graduating class of QUT’s Bachelor of Creative Industries.
Maxine’s work has featured in dozens of solo and group exhibitions, and sold to collectors around the world. Most recently she was a finalist in the Lyn McRea Contemporary Drawing Prize.
But Maxine is just as passionate about shining the spotlight on others.
“I consider myself a community arts development officer but unfunded by the government. I’m self-funded,” she says.
“As gentrification is happening to Tewantin a lot of people are looking for culture and things to do. The young people coming up want to make it young and hip, and we also have a lot of people who had investment properties who have now moved up here and those people have more of an expendable budget.”
As well as community support, she hopes to find a patron for the gallery.
“I’m looking for a philanthropist or inventor. Art is 100 per cent tax deductible up to $40,000 and at the end of the day it’s about supporting local talent,” she says.
“I’ve got original artwork from $65 to $4200. A good laptop costs you $4200 but it depreciates instantly, whereas art goes up in value. I’m trying to keep the money in our area.”
Max Galleria’s upcoming exhibition Rainbow Planet features 12 Coast artists and explores the themes of mythology, multiculturalism and the Noosa Shire’s LGBTQI+ community.
“Just here in Tewantin Plaza is a guy who’s Irish and Aboriginal, the lady next door is Vietnamese, I’m half Jewish and half English; we’re really diverse in our genetics and we’re all happy to be Aussies. I’m happy we’re a rainbow-blooded nation,” Maxine says.
“We’re all from different places but at the end of the day we’re all humans. I think that’s how the reconciliation of Australia will happen. Two of the 12 artists I’m going to show, Denva Estreich and Tracey Mills, are Indigenous. We’re all these different people and we all get along really well.”
Rainbow Planet opens at Max Galleria on May 20 and runs until June 11. For more information visit facebook.com/max.galleria.