ONE of Bendigo’s most important tourist destinations has become a busy and productive artisinal centre, thanks to graduates of Bendigo’s embattled TAFE.
“You can see the results,” artist Catherine Brennan said this week at her studio onsite at the Bendigo Pottery.
“So many people who go through TAFE courses want to create their own gallery, their own studio, their own business, and it gave us confidence to do that.
“Doesn’t the government want people in the workforce?”
Ms Brennan graduated from Bendigo TAFE in 2009, after five years studying part-time.
She said she had always wanted to do formal study in visual arts, but her circumstances after school meant she was not able to enrol in a university course.
“Enrolling in TAFE was a real awakening for me,” she said.
“I was mostly self-taught, but wanted to learn in an environment that not only took me through the basics but also taught me to teach.
“Throughout my course, I sat beside people who didn’t have the money to go to uni, or whose parents couldn’t afford to send them.
“It allowed us to just try, without too much risk.”
When she completed her TAFE course, Ms Brennan looked for opportunities to sell her handmade scarves as well as paintings and other artworks.
When she noticed a building near the entrance to Bendigo Pottery was being used as a stores shed, she suggested to managing director Rod Thomson she could rent it as a shop and studio space.
Now, she works there seven days a week, and since she opened in April last year, other artists, several of them also TAFE graduates, have set up in nearby buildings.
“I dream of making this like another artists’ village,” she says.
Ms Brennan credits TAFE with getting her started in her business, and is concerned cuts to funding will limit future opportunities for other artists.
“I wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t for TAFE,” she said.
“TAFE is like the heart of this city, it’s at the centre.
“If the heart starts to suffer, the community will break down.”