CELEBRATION: Dubayjar Mindjelah dancers at the official opening of Ingite Sudios in Ballina on Saturday and, below, Ballina Shire mayor David Wright cutting the red tape.
CELEBRATION: Dubayjar Mindjelah dancers at the official opening of Ingite Sudios in Ballina on Saturday and, below, Ballina Shire mayor David Wright cutting the red tape. Karin von Behrens

How a heritage-listed fire station became an art studio

AFTER a few years of hard work, the old Ballina Fire Station was officially re-opened on Saturday as Ignite Studios.

Mayor David Wright stood before a large crowd and joked, "I thought 'ignite' was maybe not the right word to use for a fire station but maybe it was”.

The building now contains three leased studio spaces and one studio for the visiting artists program, which includes a residential element. The residencies are partially funded and also open to those who are self-funded. They are already booked out from mid-May to February.

Ballina Mayor David Wright cuts the ribbon.
Ballina Mayor David Wright cuts the ribbon. Karin von Behrens

The west wing, which was originally the fire station locker room and engine bay, has been converted into a workshop space for the Northern Rivers Community Gallery and a space the community can hire, or access at subsidised rates, for their own purposes.

The transformation was initially a collaboration between former NRCG services officer Carla Feltham and current NRCG co-ordinator Lee Mathers.

HAPPY DAY: The opening of Ignite Studios in the old Ballina Fire Station on Saturday.
HAPPY DAY: The opening of Ignite Studios in the old Ballina Fire Station on Saturday. Karin von Behrens

The gallery had been struggling to run workshops because it didn't have the room. When the pair heard the council was looking for submissions, they could see it was exactly what they needed.

"Carla and I just went, 'Oh my God! That's got to happen,'” Ms Mathers said.

The opening ceremony featured a performance by the Dubayjar Mindjelah dance group, which had been rehearsing for four terms with dance teacher Sarah Bolt.

Fairy Simone Canning from Faces of Fairy.
Fairy Simone Canning from Faces of Fairy. Karin von Behrens

"The money (for current and future performances) goes into their own bank account and they're saving for a cultural camp,” a Bunjum Aboriginal Corporation spokesperson said.

In the audience was 91-year-old Jean Vidler, who was born in the original fire station.

"I'm a part of this building. It's been my life,” Ms Vidler said. "It was the heart of the town because there were no hotels open, no night life.”

Dubayjar Mindjelah dancer at the opening of Ingite Sudios in Ballina, Saturday May 5, 2018.
Dubayjar Mindjelah dancer at the opening of Ingite Sudios in Ballina, Saturday May 5, 2018. Karin von Behrens

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