Situated a comfortable thirty minute train ride south of Perth, historic Fremantle is invariably at the top of the list for many visitors during their sojourn in Western Australia. While the maritime heritage of 'Freo' is one of its biggest drawcards, the town also boasts Western Australia's most vibrant arts scene and is a mecca for creative folk of every kind. Galleries and art studios can be found amongst the town's picturesque backstreets, while some of the state's largest creative organisations are based here.
Of the various arts centres and galleries in town, the Fremantle Arts Centre is definitely the funkiest and most unique. Built in the Australian Gothic style, it dates back to 1864, and over the years has served as a lunatic asylum, a maternity training hospital, a home for destitute women, a billet for American servicemen during WWII and as the Fremantle Technical College.
Fremantle Arts Centre
These days, in its incarnation as the Fremantle Arts Centre, the building is the home of a vibrant and upbeat creative community. Regular exhibitions are held in the centre's galleries, while at any one time several artists working in various media participate in its artist-in-residence program. Many of these artisans also hold studio-based classes, sharing their knowledge and skills with students in either weekly courses or weekend workshops. While the weekly courses may not be suitable for travellers who are only passing through town briefly, you may like to check out the FAC website and see what weekend workshops will be on during your stay in Fremantle. There are also regular creative courses held for children, especially over the school holidays, so be sure to look out for these as well.
Both long and short courses are available at the Fremantle Arts Centre
For interstate and overseas visitors who would like to take home a unique memento of their stay in Western Australia or a gorgeous present for someone special, the centre's gift shop, Found, is one of the best places in the Perth metro area to buy quality handicrafts made by the state's foremost artisans. The works for sale here are diverse and include fashion items, jewellery, textile arts, ceramics, paintings and drawings. Found also stocks a wide range of works-on-paper, limited edition prints which have been created by artists living in remote communities and regional areas of Australia. Books and stationary are also available.
Found is widely considered to be one of the best places in WA to purchase quality locally-produced art and handicrafts
The Fremantle Arts Centre is also one of Perth's most unique music venues, and regular musical recitals are held both on its 3000 capacity South Lawn and in the intimacy of its the inner courtyard, where its popular Courtyard Music program is held free of charge, every Sunday afternoon. There's truly something for everyone here, and the music styles range from chamber music by the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra's principal musicians to a more contemporary selection.
In a nutshell, the Fremantle Arts Centre is a labyrinth of creative opportunities and a place which you simply have to visit during your stay in beautiful Western Australia. There's always something happening, and there's so much to see and do for the whole family. Children are catered for in various ways, and there's a small creative nook for them in one of the downstairs hallways. On the day which I last visited, a kids' fun bus was also parked in the gardens, and the place was alive with happy mums and children.
A children's event in the grounds of the Fremantle Arts Centre.
Meanwhile, numerous studios upstairs were buzzing with activity, business was pumping in the cafe and a steady stream of visitors was passing through the galleries and gift store. Therefore, in order to experience 'Freo' hospitality and culture at its most vibrant, be sure to place the Fremantle Arts Centre at the top of your 'to do' list. Whether you're yearning to unleash your inner artist, like to chill out to some great music or want to find some unique local handicrafts, this is one place that you simply can't miss.