Imagine a village that holds art exhibits in every other building, even in its cafés.
How about strolling through the art hub of a town centre, while musician-buskers strut their stuff all around you? Sounds like a dream? Certainly not, and this is precisely what we signed up for, as we stopped by at the village of Bungendore NSW recently.
Located just 30 minutes by road from Canberra, the artistic village Bungendore (population 4178) is renowned for its woodworks gallery that has been amusing its visitors for the last 35 years. However, this is just one of the many artistic attractions of the place.
To start with, the ‘Bungendore Country Muster’, the annual music festival was on, and there was an amazing line up of local country musicians on the cards. The nearby camp site had been open for the two days, and the number of campervans that arrived to soak in two days of music heaven, was amazing! However, it was not just the 30-dollar fee in the contained grounds that would fetch you some great music. Buskers were everywhere – in the shop fronts in the town centre – singing their hearts out to the admiring shoppers. You could spare some money for their talent, or vote for their singing talent, from which the best talent would be judged at the muster.
Well, how did a small, isolated village become an artisan haven?
The interesting story was shared by Sharon Rasker who has been part of the Bungendore Wood Works Gallery for the last 15 years. David MacLaren, the artistic director and founder of the gallery migrated from Long Island in the United States and founded the humble gallery in the 1960s. It slowly grew to become an artistic hub that attracts around 120,000 visitors every year. During its growth, it transformed the little village called Bungendore fostering the finesse and artistic culture it is now known for. Sharon recollects with enthusiasm that 60-70% of their visitors return to take another look, another year.
David’s woodworks gallery is a space where artistic and commercial interests balance perfectly. In spite of the business winning several awards nationally and internationally, it still welcomes the eyes-wide-open-visitor that is mesmerised by the finery of the woodworks and the potential buyer alike. One can spend any number of hours looking at the fine wood crafts by Australian artists free of cost, or decide to buy some of the unique pieces that range from jewellery for $20 to amazing sculptures to designer wooden furniture to the value of $100,000.
The shop Village Antiques, unlike its humble name, spreads across a remarkable area constituting of a reasonable big single storied house, a vestibule, patio a massive shed and an outdoor garden; adorned with sizeable succulent gardens along the way. Even if antiques are not your thing, this place is well worth a visit, as it shelters collectibles, ornaments, and even replicas all very tastefully displayed. The outdoor section is not to be missed, inclusive of the giant kewpie doll mounted on a steel base trolley, which was used in the ‘Lets Party’ segment in the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Truly interesting to observe some of our present slowly slipping through the sands of time, to become vintage pieces.
Bungendore Village Leather is yet another interesting attraction in this little town. Boasting an eclectic mix of leather crafts and products, the enterprise has over 40 years’ experience in art and craft shows, markets and festivals. The shop itself dates back to 1994, and is said to house the best variety of leather craft products unequalled by any other Australian leather shops.
“The best part is that I get to travel and experience the world,” the shop-keeper cum owner who liked to remain incognito said to us. “What you see here has been sourced from many parts of the world – European countries, India, Indonesia, China. The sad part is that not many tanneries exist in Australia anymore, hence we don’t get a lot of authentic Aussie leather. But the good part is that the leather we get here now integrates the craftsmanship of people from around the world.”
It was a pleasure to see that the expensive leather crafts were not wrapped up in plastic for the buyers, but in the old-style brown paper packages – a little consideration to the world, by these travellers who have seen enough of the world to realise its impact.
Stories of little towns are never complete without talking about their eateries. Bungendore has an array of places to ignite any foodie’s imagination – outlets like Pie Place that sells country style pie and bagels, Bungendore Wood Works café that brings in a lot of the nearby artistic community together, Café ‘Gathering’, and so forth. Such a lovely feel to end the day warming up to country hospitality with a steaming cup of coffee, in the company of trailing vines of ivies and hanging pots of petunia adding a dash of colour. We were not surprised at all amongst some smiling faces who are at peace with themselves.