A dab hand at or­gan­is­ing

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS LOOKING BACK -

Marion Free­man and her hus­band Gordy had been com­ing to Cooya Beach for 20 years be­fore they fi­nally set­tled there.

Vis­it­ing their daugh­ter Pris who lived there was the main rea­son, but they also loved the cli­mate and be­ing by the beach. It was so dif­fer­ent from liv­ing in the win­ter snows of Min­nesota USA.

Marion was Pro­fes­sor of So­cial Work at Min­neapo­lis Uni­ver­sity, and As­sis­tant Vi­cePres­i­dent for Stu­dent Af­fairs.

“I was good at it, and I liked it and I worked for a man I ad­mired a lot. He was a black man and he was bright and just loved his job so we got along well,” Marion said.

Be­fore that Marion worked in the child de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tute in Yel­low Springs, Ohio.

She re­tired at 70 and Gordy, who was an au­di­tor, had al­ready re­tired so they were free to move.

Af­ter they set­tled here in 1995 Marion needed a project to keep her busy.

“I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties and pol­i­tics and so I started go­ing to Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil meet­ings. Then I heard that the Queens­land Arts Fund had some money to de­velop art op­por­tu­ni­ties in the com­mu­ni­ties. It was called RADF.

“My vi­sion was to start an arts cen­tre for dis­ad­van­taged women who re­ally were locked in the house with the kids and needed some­thing to de­velop their po­ten­tial.

“Marj Nor­ris who was on the Coun­cil at that time knew about the Na­tional Bank build­ing in Mill Street be­ing avail­able.”

When the Na­tional Bank moved to Front Street in 1986, the coun­cil’s engi­neer­ing de­part­ment moved into the old bank un­til the new coun­cil build­ings were com­pleted in 1996.

So the empty build­ing was still un­der the coun­cil’s aegis.

Marion wasn’t an artist but “Gordy and I liked art fairs and of­ten went to them on Satur­days just for fun. We went to Europe to art gal­leries. It’s al­ways been an in­ter­est and a pleas­ant one.”

So she gath­ered to­gether some like-minded peo­ple – Ellen Tyrrell, Tri­cia Fay, Theo Sch­lub, Ralph Pick­les, Vicki Thomas, Joan Mur­day and Pamela Martin – and they lodged a re­quest for use of the build­ing.

Marion re­mem­bers, “We couldn’t call it the Dou­glas Arts Bank. That’s il­le­gal be­cause it wasn’t a bank.”

So they set­tled on Dou­glas Arts Base or DAB.

“It didn’t take very long to set it up. It went very well. Ellen Tyrrell and Ralph Pick­les were very me­thod­i­cal at get­ting things done and Marj Nor­ris and Pam Martin were a great help in pre­sent­ing the DAB or­gan­i­sa­tion to Coun­cil.

“We got some­body to take the Min­utes. I think I han­dled the money till we got or­gan­ised. We were sort of loose about that but it worked well.

“We didn’t have a lot of equip­ment. We went to the bank to bor­row $500 and I think we ap­plied again to RADF. We never seemed to be strapped for money but we didn’t have much. Just had that build­ing. I think it had some tables and chairs.

“I re­mem­ber go­ing to Cairns for 18 or 20 lit­tle easels. I saw an ad in the pa­per.”

DAB’s ori­en­ta­tion week­end was on Septem­ber 21, 2002. Mem­ber­ship was $20. Ini­tially the build­ing opened ev­ery Mon­day for artists and stu­dents.

“I was pres­i­dent of the board for a year or two and then – I like or­gan­is­ing things – and I think I got kind of bored with it.

“We put on some shows, some ex­hi­bi­tions. I got Jill Booth from Port Dou­glas to teach some cour­ses and Peter Cul­ley did too.

“Now DAB is still thriv­ing, isn’t that good? And serv­ing a real need.”

Marion still loves be­ing at Cooya Beach.

“It is a nice place to live. It’s quiet.

“I’m lucky to be on the ocean and we have a place in Mex­ico on the ocean too. I was just there in Fe­bru­ary.

“I’d go there more but it’s a long way, that flight across the Pa­cific. We have a son Ge­of­frey in the States and when I go to Mex­ico he goes with me.

“Now I read about a book a day. I read any­thing that’s printed. Even on a ce­real box prob­a­bly. I just read.

“I’m grate­ful for my good life and my health is good. I do en­joy projects.

“DAB worked out didn’t it?

“My mo­ti­va­tion in all of it was to keep it low key and not too or­gan­ised.

“I fell in love with that gor­geous build­ing and had this idea that there should be some­where to paint.”

Marion Free­man is de­lighted that the shire’s artists or­gan­i­sa­tion that she help set up many years ago is thriv­ing, as she ex­plained to

well,

Pic­ture: PAM WIL­LIS BUR­DEN

LMar­ion Free­man. In­set: With the early DAB crew

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