Arts group thrives in restored rail buildings

11 May 2023

As work continues to refurbish 10 more buildings under the Victorian Government’s Community Use of Vacant Rail Buildings (CUVRB) program, we caught up with the Baw Baw Arts Alliance on how the group uses buildings at Yarragon and Trafalgar restored under the first round of the program in 2014 and 2015 respectively. 

The Yarragon and Trafalgar station buildings became available after the Trafalgar and District Community Bank leased the restored buildings and provided access to community groups. The Arts Alliance has 300 members and these buildings are open to members and the public. 

"Having these spaces available is incredibly important because there is nowhere else for artists to display their work," President of Baw Baw Arts Alliance, Anita George said. 

"It's a place where artists feel comfortable, it's their home. Our artists are showing their work and encouraging others to show their work. The community can buy artworks and if you want to present an exhibition, this is this is where you can."


We have so many art events in this area, that our artists are kept busy

A rotating art display fills the rooms of The Station Gallery, Yarragon, with exhibitions changing monthly, providing local artists with the chance to display and sell their art. The Station Gallery also hosts exhibitions by the Bbaa art groups that operate from the Trafalgar ArtSpace which is the practical building of the BawBaw Arts Alliance. Painting, mosaics, clay, printmaking, fibre activities as well as drawing and writing use this second community building. 

With exhibitions and a shop of local handmade unique gifts, Yarragon is the home of the Arts Alliance. Trafalgar, a short 6-minute train ride east is the hub of the 'making' of art. Two rooms to create, play and talk is a very happy place for the Bbaa artists. 

"The buildings are great because they have character, and they have small rooms like a home. So, if you buy a piece of artwork here you've got more of an idea what it would look like in your house," Anita said. 

The reach of the Baw Baw Arts Alliance program extends beyond the immediate areas around Trafalgar and Yarragon, bringing the benefits of arts programs to the broader Gippsland communities. The group is involved in arts events in Warragul with The Arts Market and Easter Art Sale, Drouin's Ficifolia event, Tanjil Valley, Mount Worth and Neerim South to name a few. 

"We have so many art events in this area, that our artists are kept busy" Anita explained. 

"We really need this space, this gallery, and other groups in Victoria need these buildings too. A station is normally located central in a town and the townsfolk can feel an ownership and build a community, and with the other artists in their areas can come and join in and grow their skills and friendships." 

About the Community Use of Vacant Rail Buildings program 

The Victorian Government’s Community Use of Vacant Rail Buildings Program restores disused station buildings in regional towns, some of which have been vacant for decades, so they can be used by local community groups. The program’s benefits include bringing the station buildings back to life and providing the community with new spaces to enjoy. 

Another $9 million funding was announced in the 2020–21 State Budget to restore 10 more buildings. VicTrack previously restored 21 railway buildings under the program between 2013 and 2019. 

VicTrack community leasing 

As Victoria’s rail asset owner, VicTrack has an extensive community leasing portfolio which enables disused rail assets such as buildings, land and rolling stock to be available for community uses. This provides social and economic benefits, particularly in regional Victoria. 

VicTrack currently has more than 400 leases in place for local governments and community groups that support an array of community uses, including: 

  • Tourist & Heritage rail and tram operations
  • Community Use of Vacant Rail Buildings Program
  • Management of rail trails
  • Leasing of community assets for recreational, community, arts, health and welfare and tourism purposes.