Hidden talent tipped to become Warwick's next economic force
EMERGING artists are tipped to become the economic force that keeps Warwick's CBD thriving as business leaders look to capitalise on a tapestry of hidden talent in the region.
Growing momentum among Southern Downs craftspeople to show, sell and exhibit their work has revealed an untapped asset that could become Warwick's defining feature, Chamber of Commerce president Julia Keogh said as she looks to revitalise Warwick's hub this year.
"That is where I see we have a unique advantage over Toowoomba,” Ms Keogh said.
"People are coming to our region because they don't want the blandness of a big chain like Kmart, they want that personal connection you get from locals.”
Ms Keogh said artists had a big role to play in Warwick's business community in 2019.
"I think more and more, people are going to be looking to the creative people in our community as a strong economic force,” she said.
Warwick photographer Helen Robinson has seen a wealth of creative talent in Warwick start to come to the fore.
Mrs Robinson is part of a newly-formed artist collective called Gallery 22, which is looking to find a permanent shopfront this year after the remarkable success of its pop-up gallery on December 19-22.
"We didn't know what to expect and honestly it was beyond our wildest dreams,” she said.
"The work and the presentation and the group was really well received and we are really keen to keep the momentum up and have some objectives for 2019.”
For many of the group's 12 members, the pop-up gallery held at St Mark's Hall was the first time they had ever sold or exhibited their work.
"You just don't know until you actually meet these people how amazing the quality of their work really is,” Mrs Robinson said.
"I really think Warwick has so much to offer with respect to the creative area.”
Ms Keogh said the COC was working with the artist collective and other groups to develop a sustainable business model find a permanent home to show and exhibit their work.
As the region grows, Ms Keogh said it was important to keep the city's heart beating.
"We do have a couple of empty shopfronts, especially in the CBD,” she said.
"One factor is the natural ebb and flow and the cycle of small business.
"We have seen when there is development away from the main CBD that can create a drain, so if there are businesses developing we would like them to look to the CBD first.”
Warwick business owner and COC board member Robyn Fraser said creative talent and quirky innovations were becoming more integral to Warwick's identity.
"I think anything like that brings people to Warwick and helps people to think that we are alive and things are happening in these country areas, it's good for all the businesses,” she said.
"Things like the tree jumpers ... it promotes our CBD and I think all those things highlight that it is just a special place to be.”