A dab hand at organising
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
LMarion Freeman. Inset: With the early DAB crew