Macs celebrates 30 years of community art activities

2014-06-18 00:00

THIRTY years ago, a group of creative people in the Midlands founded the Midlands Arts and Crafts Society, now familiarly known as Macs.

A few weeks later, on August 3, 1984, the launching exhibition was opened in the Normand Dunn Gallery at Hilton College. On display was the work of some 30 local artists and crafts people.

In reporting the launch, The Natal Witness quoted Jutta Faulds, a prime mover in the formation of Macs, as saying that one of the aims was to encourage amateur artists, and that the society hoped to hold more exhibitions as well as workshops in the future.

Those hopes have been more than realised. The creative lives of scores of people, both experienced practitioners and complete novices, have been enriched by the activities organised by Macs.

There has been a ceaseless stream of classes, courses and workshops.

Guided by experienced teachers, members and others have discovered the pleasures of an almost limitless diversity of skills and techniques in drawing, painting, knitting, felting, embroidery, collage, papier maché, sculpting, exploring the fascinations of colour or simply playing with clay.

There have been winter and spring schools, seminars for teachers, community outreach programmes and special events such as stress-relieving breakfasts, wearable art shows and poetry readings, often accompanied by delicious meals prepared by Macs members.

The annual Bizarre Bazaar became a delightful source of seasonal gifts, and a craft shop has remained open throughout the year.

These things could not have happened without premises of some kind, and over the years Macs has occupied three successive houses. Recognising the value of the society’s activities for the community, the Pietermaritzburg City Council first granted Macs a lease at a nominal rental on a house at 28 Prince Alfred Street, overlooking the Duzi River.

When that became untenable, Macs moved in 1996 to 176 Alexandra Road.

As before, the members began adapting the place to their often unconventional needs and quirky aesthetics. A coffee shop came on board, and Macs Art House soon became a popular meeting place.

Each month, a new exhibition was hung in what became the Café Gallery, providing exposure for both new and established artists.

Having lost its downtown premises, the African Art Centre was given accommodation, and the old Natal Society Library bus, with its selection of loan books, was parked in the grounds.

Again, however, the costs of maintaining an old house on an extensive property, compounded by the depredations of thieves, became a burden, sapping the finances and energies of the society much as the first house had done. The solution was found by Faulds. From the outset, she has been the guiding force behind much that Macs has done. Recognising this, her many associates and students paid tribute to her in a recent exhibition at the Tatham Gallery.

When the property next door to her own home was put up for sale, she bought it. For the third time, the process of conversion and redecoration began, and after 30 years, Macs’ activities are alive and well.

The anniversary will be celebrated with an open day on Saturday at Macs House, 23 Haldane Road, on the corner with Ritchie Road in Pelham. The day, including refreshments, is free (but donations will be welcomed) and everyone is invited to share the creative things that they do, from decorating hot-water bottle covers to making music and reciting poetry. Drop in at any time between 8 am and 4 pm.

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