Art lovers, rejoice! When you’re visiting Lismore and the Richmond Valley region of the NSW far North Coast, you're surrounded by creativity. Linger in inspiring galleries, exploring art trails, viewing street art and attending festivals.
The Lismore Regional Gallery is one of the longest-running cultural institutions in the Northern Rivers region, dedicated to inclusion and innovation through its programming. The main gallery hub is currently undergoing restoration following the floods of 2022. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your dose of local artistic talent – the gallery is operating a pop-up space in Lismore’s CBD (at 47 Magellan St) until the grand re-opening, mid-2024.
When that day comes, you’ll find a reinvigorated space home to works from highly esteemed Aussie artists including Margaret Olley (who was born in Lismore), Lloyd Rees and Albert Namatjira, alongside international exhibits and cultural workshops.
On a smaller scale, but just as intriguing, is the Alan Ussher Glassblowing Studio, where you can see Alan at work crafting his covetable wares and attend a glassblowing workshop. His pieces are on display, and you can also pick up works to take home. Spend some time exploring the Silver Cloud Studios precinct Alan calls home – it also nurtures a community of artists and creators. Also in South Lismore is Flourish Art Gallery & Studio, a dynamic space that hosts monthly changing exhibits as well as regular workshops, from clay classes to printmaking tutorials.
Amarina AARI is an Aboriginal-run artists’ collective, which prioritises amplifying the voices and stories of emerging artists, grassroots community members and remote and rural communities within the greater Bundjalung Nation. There are seasonal exhibitions, as well as monthly workshops to meet with Indigenous artists and learn skills from their individual practice. Elevator Ari is another small gallery space that hosts pop-up exhibits from local creatives. And the Serpentine Community Gallery is run by artists, for artists.
You can also visit the studio and gallery (by appointment only) of recognised Lismore watercolourist, Christine Porter, who creates visual stories about rural Australia. Call ahead and she’ll give you a printmaking demonstration.
Art trails & street art
Follow the riverbank on the Wilsons River Experience Walk and you will find sculptures, art installations and interpretative panels of local Aboriginal and colonial history. There’s also an Aboriginal bush food garden en route, where you can learn about native Australian plants, and how they’re traditionally used as food and medicine.
Get inspired when you follow the Lismore ArtsVenture Trail, which repurposes vacant shop fronts into innovative exhibition spaces, showcasing art to the public and revitalising the city. Art works again come courtesy of the Lismore Regional Gallery, and the experience gives you the chance to glimpse everything from works by Margaret Olley to Lucas Wright. Download your map online.
If you like things larger than life and in full colour, you’ll love visiting the Back Alley Gallery. There are more than 60 artworks, including large-scale murals, graffiti art, paste-ups, stencils and installations. It’s constantly evolving, which makes each time you visit like the first. Nearby, the town of Nimbin is also famous for its street art and murals. The tradition dates back to the first Aquarius Festival (a counter-cultural art and music festival, still held to this day) in 1973, and today you’ll find many buildings on the main street acting as a 3D canvas. Stroll along Cullen Street and admire quirky murals featuring Indigenous rainforest, psychedelic patterns and colourful local characters.
Festivals & markets
Held in June each year, around the winter solstice, thecelebrates art and community, with dozens of larger-than-life illuminated puppets and fire art. It’s quite the spectacle, made all the more enjoyable by the live music and stalls selling Lismore treats. If you want to catch a show outside this date, regional performing arts organisation NORPA creates, produces and presents innovative original work and important theatre productions from its home in the Lismore City Hall.
There’s not much that the communities of the Northern Rivers region love more than a market. Each weekend (and almost every day in between), towns and villages throughout host craft and farmers markets brimming with everything from handmade furniture and vintage apparel to the freshest organic veggies. In Lismore alone, there’s an organic market every Tuesday, a produce market every Thursday, and a farmers market every Saturday. Phew.
A 20-minute drive away, the Channon Craft Market is held on the second Sunday of each month, and is one of Australia’s oldest arts and crafts markets. Look forward to more than 240 stallholders offering arts and crafts, fresh produce, plants, bric-a-brac, therapies and clothing. There are also activities for kids, such as candle making, a jumping castle and rides, live music and buskers.
Also drawing a massive crowd are the Nimbin Markets, held on the fourth and fifth Sunday (if there is one) of every month. Visiting this eclectic market is as much about having fun as it is about making a purchase, with entertainment (and entertaining local characters) at every turn. In between you’ll find delicious multicultural food, coffee, unique artisan wares, recycled inventions, books, spiritual concepts, clothes and furniture... among so much more. Check out the busy events calendar for exhibitions, performances and markets.
In the region
The not-for-profit Nimbin Artists Gallery displays the work of local creatives, from sculpture and glassworks to jewellery, ceramics, clothing and baskets. The gallery is also one of the hosts of the annual Nimbin Artist Fair. In Lillian Rock (a 30-minute drive from Lismore), the Blue Knob Hall Gallery and Cafe is inside a restored 1920s building and shows painting, sculpture, glassware, jewellery and more from local and invited artists. A highlight of the gallery’s calendar is the annual Fibre Show, which showcases art created using felting techniques.
The Cassino Gallery, meanwhile, sits pretty in the town of Casino, and holds regular exhibits and workshops, as well as art classes for both children and adults. And in Kyogle, the Roxy Gallery is a community initiative that features a kaleidoscope of talented regional and local artists and art groups in ever-changing exhibitions of mixed media all year round.