living upstairs and running Art Club downstairs
— at
Nightingale Studios
Nightingale Preston
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Tell us about yourself.

My name is Sue Davis. I've always worked in the arts, from theatre design and prop making to community arts. I'vedone kids workshops with Art Play in the city and also worked with various councils on arts projects and festivals like Womad. Then I started to run art classes for my two sons and their friends. It initially started with 12 kids in my backyard and now it's 112 kids and 8 classes per week.  I’ve now been running Art Club for 13 years. There was a niche that needed to be filled, it grew very organically and it’s fantastic.

I’m not very sporty myself and we live in a very sporty culture, so it’s really nice to offer something different for kids, that they can belong to, where they can make friends, feel valued, and know that they're good at something.

How did Art Club find its home at the bottom of Nightingale Preston?

Originally, I ran the studio from my backyard in Northcote. My partner and I separated and it was difficult to find somewhere where I could live and work. I went in the ballot for Nightingale Preston and was successful getting an apartment. I was looking at Nightingale’s Brunswick spaces for Art Club, but most of the kids I teach are in Northcote so Brunswick was a bit far.  Then, fortunately, there was a retail space at the bottom of Nightingale Preston but it was too big. I asked them if they’d be prepared to subdivide the space and they were! It was fantastic, they were so supportive. So now I live upstairs and run Art Club downstairs. I couldn’t have asked for a better solution.

Have any fellow residents asked to come to a class?  

I only teach kids classes. But there’s been such wonderful support from the residents that I'm doing this. Beforehand, I ran Art Club in my backyard, so it was quite private and I thought it might be strange moving into a more public space. But actually, the feedback has been fantastic. A lot of residents have said they'd love to come to an adult class, but I'm not the person to run it. I think it’s a different set of skills. In the future, I hope I can find people to share the space with, to do other classes that I can't do like adult classes or art therapy or classes for preschoolers during the day when I'm not here. It’s a great space.

Do you have any staff?

It’s mostly just me - but I do have assistants. They tend to be former students and it’s their first job while they’re still at school. 

Do your sons still come to your class?

They did Art Club all through primary school but they’re older now. They're 24 and 20. My 20-year-old is still living with me. My oldest has gone on to do Fine Art, but my youngest has had enough art!

How did you find out about Nightingale?

Nightingale was on my radar for a good 10 years because their values aligned with mine - sustainability, community and good design.  I've always really loved the idea of it, but it wasn't always something that was viable for my family. Brunswick has never quite been my neighbourhood. Then I saw an ad for Nightingale Preston and it was the perfect location for me. Preston is great and I'm only just starting to get to know it and it's fantastic. There are lots of bars, great food, and the famous market. 

When did you move in?

Only six weeks ago so it's still fresh. 

Wow, Art Club is so well set up already.

It had to be. I spent a lot of time prior to moving in organising it so that we hit the ground running.  I thought it might take two weeks, but it actually took four. There are always things you don’t think of. I moved into the space as a cold shell. I put the cabinets in - they match the apartment because I really like the aesthetic and it feels right for the building. I also put in the acoustic felt. There are still a few things to do but all the kids love. The parents love it too and have been so supportive. It’s an upgrade from where the classes were before  - a bit more sophisticated.  It’s also just a lovely space to work in. There’s a lot of light and the kids can go over to the park under the rail where the landscaping is beautiful.

How are you finding your apartment?

Oh, it's great! North facing, beautiful. And it's incredibly warm. It's 20 degrees all the time. I haven't even had the heating on yet.

Have you gotten to know your neighbours much yet or is everyone still settling in?

Everyone's still settling in. We've already had a couple of 'Moonrise' gatherings on the roof - watching the full moon rise with a mulled wine or hot chocolate. Our floor has organised our first get together - a morning tea next weekend.

The community at Art Club must be strong?

Oh, absolutely.  I've had some kids that have come for 12 years, and then I've got lots of families where I’ve met all the kids and taught all the siblings which is really lovely. It’s great having that continuity as kids get older.

Nightingale Studios are 24 fresh commercial spaces approaching completion at Nightingale Wurru wurru biik - available for sale and for lease in varying sizes.

Find out more about
Nightingale Studios
Nightingale Preston
First published in
May 2024