15 January 2024

A legacy deeply steeped in crime now has art at its heart

| Edwina Mason
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Murringo Barracks is an historic bluestone building located on the outskirts of Murringo in the Hilltops Region.

At the ripe old age of 144 years, Murringo Barracks has been restored as a weekend art gallery and plays host to visitors to the area as a bed and breakfast. Photo: Theresa Crowe.

A sturdy bluestone building that started life as a police barracks in the wild and lawless eastern Hilltops region of the 1880s is enjoying a renaissance as an art gallery.

Elegantly conspicuous at the southern entry to a quaint village of stone, brick and timber slab buildings, the Murringo Barracks has held court – so to speak – clocking the passing parade of residents, visitors, miners, bushrangers and through traffic for some 144 years.

Situated halfway between Boorowa and Young, Murringo was first settled in 1827 and as one of the first settlements beyond the Blue Mountains, was a vibrant, growing community until the discovery of gold at Lambing Flat (now Young) in 1860 lured people further west.

A proud and nourishing community spirit means many of these original buildings have been preserved and listed on the local heritage register, including the Murringo Barracks.

Built in 1880, records show the building also served as a courthouse as early as 1882.

When Mark and Theresa Crowe purchased the building and its 20 acres of surrounding land in 2020, it was with a view of restoring it for use as a bed and breakfast business, as well as the art gallery featuring works from local and regional artists.

Murringo Barracks Art Gallery opened in March 2023 and is situated in the front two rooms – the charge room and court room – of the building and open to the public, admission free, each weekend from 10 am to 4 pm.

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Venturing into a bluestone and mortar gallery was well reasoned, said Theresa.

“With art being so readily available to be purchased online, I felt it was important we don’t lose the experience of the physical art gallery,” she said.

“This gives people the chance to take time out and reflect on art, to immerse themselves and to absorb the emotion and meaning that only standing in front of an original work can bring.

“It’s so beneficial to let the artwork envelop us, in a space that is quiet and removed from the bustle of everyday living,” Theresa explained.

And there has been no resting on its foundations as it kicked off 2024 with a remarkable exhibition which, through unique brushwork and colour palettes, honours the changing landscape that typifies the NSW countryside.

The early January opening of Rural Heartland features the works of Cootamundra artists Lyn Angus and John Sharman.

Front entry of Murringo Barracks, Murringo NSW

The exhibition Rural Heartland at Murringo Barracks features the works of Cootamundra artists Lyn Angus and John Sharman. Image: Theresa Crowe.

Lyn studied art in Geelong in the 1960s and worked for many years using fibre to design and make garments, but she’s recently turned her hand to painting in gouache (opaque watercolour) and her striking work is becoming known for its graphic style, clean line and clear colours.

Born in Sydney in 1947, John Sharman turned to full-time professional art practice in 1980, which has resulted in countless group exhibitions, 26 solo exhibitions and myriad awards.

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The majority of his works are painted on location plein air – landscapes, seascapes and beach-oriented figurative works in a realist-impressionist style.

Theresa says there are limited opportunities for artists in rural areas to exhibit their work, much less create a body of work for an exhibition.

“With this in mind, we have created our art space to serve both the public and the artist’s needs,” she said. “This endeavour extends and pushes the artist’s creativity.”

She says the bed and breakfast complemented this philosophy by allowing people to relax, clear their minds and reconnect with nature and enjoy the spoils of country life which, on their farm, translates to the raising of fat lambs and fine wool Merino sheep.

Rural Heartland will show each weekend from 10 am to 4 pm until the end of February, then Therese will be holding a solo exhibition of her own work which will open on the first weekend in March.

Visitors to Murringo can also see the Christ Church Anglican Church (built in the 1860s), the Marengo Hotel (licensed in 1856), the public school (built in 1870) and the Plough Inn (built before 1860).

Murringo Barracks is located at 2244 Murringo Rd, Murringo NSW 2586.

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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