Insider’s guide to top music & art experiences in NSW
From thought-provoking art galleries to ballot-only gigs and a tropical blues festival. Discover Shelley Simpson’s, founder of ceramics brand Mud Australia, favourite creative experiences in NSW.
Shelley Simpson is the founder and designer behind iconic Sydney-based design brand, Mud Australia. Since 1994, it's been firing its timeless porcelain homewares – from coffee cups to lampshades – in 19 iconic colours from its studio in Marrickville. As a vanguard of interior decoration and a fan of art, design and culture, we asked Shelley to share her top creative experiences in NSW.
The original (South) building of the AGNSW is my favourite gallery in Sydney. It’s such a great place to spend even just 30 minutes, or a few hours, wandering around the halls after a swim at the Andrew Boy Charlton Pool just down the hill.
Visiting the Bundanon Gallery in Shoalhaven incorporates two of my favourite things – art and nature. It’s an art museum and wildlife sanctuary created by the Boyd family, a family of painters, sculptors, architects. You can also stay in the award-winning Bridge rooms with the Bundanon Experience Stay Weekend, designed for people to experience the spirit of Bundanon.
One of the best things about this Chippendale gallery is that admission is free. The best thing though, is that the exhibitions are always quite thought-provoking and compelling. Hot tip: debriefing with friends over tea and dumplings in The Teahouse (it’s located within the White Rabbit Gallery, on street-level) after perusing the gallery is a treat.
I love the Northern Rivers area and love visiting this gallery in The Tweed when I’m up there. I highly recommend touring the Margaret Olley Art Centre. The Centre is part of the Gallery and combines exhibitions of paintings and objects, an interactive multi-media drawing activity, research library and education workshop, and is complemented by the Nancy Fairfax Artist-in-Residence studio and the recreation of Margaret’s famous Sydney studio. The recreation has original architectural elements relocated from Olley’s home studio in Paddington and the interiors are filled with thousands of Olley’s personal items that were often used as subject matter for her paintings.
I enjoy the beautiful drive out of Sydney to visit this gallery in Bowral. [The gallery] shows a range of artists – it's a wonderful example of strong curation clearly demonstrating the tone, style and voice of what works they choose to show. The gallery is community-funded and has a focus on education and community engagement. Lunch at Hearth by Moonacres (it’s just next door) is always delicious – it heroes seasonal, local produce.
This performance space in Chippendale was recommended to me by Lisa Villani, head of global retail at Mud. I love the concept that you have to enter a ticket ballot to attend one of the shows. In my experience, I've always found the artists to be interesting, emerging and experimental. Lisa took me to see Megan Alice Clune, who’s a multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Sydney – it was a mesmerising performance.
If I could love something more than ceramics it would be music, and my hot tips for incredible destinations wouldn’t be complete without including Bluesfest in Byron Bay. Over the years attending I have created many exceptional memories listening to music with friends and family – there's always something for everyone. Seeing Billy Bragg back in 2017 was amazing, and more recently seeing The Wailers was an absolute highlight for me.
APY Gallery Sydney is a gallery located in Darlinghurst. It’s part of the APY Art Centre Collective (APYACC) – a group of Indigenous-owned and -led art centres working together on art projects and initiatives. This gallery is particularly important to me because over the past two years, Mud Australia has partnered with the APY Art Centre Collective to facilitate ceramic practice and industry in regional and remote communities.