Indigenous artists to wow Hinchinbrook with unique gift shop opening

Art and Mungalla - Both art and local information are on display here

One bold Hinchinbrook artist has opened up a gift shop that is set to impress shoppers in the region, with stunning, high quality works of art made by Indigenous members of the community.

Principal artist and shop owner, Joanne Cassady, a well-known and liked Hinchinbrook local, has filled the store with her beautiful designs, and also invites other local Aboriginal artists to submit their works to be displayed for sale.

The gift shop, Balgarra Designs, had a private launch party on the evening of Friday, July 9, to coincide with NAIDOC Day, and opened formally to the public on Monday, July 12. The shop currently predominantly features Joanne’s designs, but she expects to receive and display more stock soon.

Cassady’s husband, Jacob Cassady, opened the evening with his Welcome to Country, and with great humour admitted to how he initially thought his wife’s idea to open the shop was crazy, but is now immensely proud. Several individuals, as well as the community at large, were thanked for their support. A traditional smoking ceremony to cleanse the place was performed before guests were invited on a tour of the business.

Balgarra Designs is actually three businesses in one. It is an Art Gallery and Gift Shop, an Indigenous Art School, and a Community Welcome Centre. Art classes and paint nights are open to the community, and they hope to be working with the hospital and local schools as well. They have a special mission to educate the public on Indigenous customs and overcome negative stereotypes surrounding local First Nations’ people. 

The Community Welcome Centre is a drop-in hub for the local community, and Jo invites everybody to feel welcome to “come in and have a coffee and a yarn.” This is for all age groups, with a special invitation going to Elders in the community from all backgrounds. This is a free service to foster community in the area and ties in with her ethos of art as therapy.

They also will be beginning a joint venture promoting and providing information on Mungalla Station and selling tickets. Although Jo is not a local Traditional Owner, she has been helping out at Mungalla for 20 years and has worked there with the tours for 15 years, after meeting her husband in Sydney and moving up here ten years later to be with his family. She is a Wiradjuri woman from western NSW.

Balgarra Designs is open Monday to Friday from 9-5pm at 63 Lannercost Street, Ingham. Classes need to be pre-booked. There will be an Open Day for the public soon with special discounts and performances featuring local children. Details will be announced when they are finalised.

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