Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The town of Stanthorpe, in Queensland is no stranger to hardship. After years of drought and bushfires, the community was already feeling the pressure when COVID-19 hit. Like many rural, remote, and regional towns, social isolation is a huge issue, now more than ever with strict rules on social interactions and gatherings. These restrictions made it particularly difficult for visitors to come to the area and spend money at local businesses, putting more financial pressure on the community already feeling the effects of years of severe drought. It was so bad, the town was even trucking in water for residents.


The Granite Belt Art and Craft Train Inc (GBART) was determined to push through all these challenges. GBART’s purpose is to support community wellbeing and economic diversity through improving the Granite Belt’s cultural vibrancy and identity. The region stretches from the Great Dividing Range in Queensland all the way to the New England region of New South Wales. 


Thanks to a $20,000 Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) grant, GBART was able to hold the highly anticipated annual culture and tourism event, Open Studio, which took place over three days and attracted approximately 4,000 visitors.


Open Studio involved hands on workshops, classes and demonstrations, while also engaging with Australian art and craft in active, inclusive ways. The events were hosted at 27 different venues, including wineries that saw visitors stopping to taste, shop and eat.


The TTTT grant allowed GBART to fund a range of supporting resources such as the training and up-skilling of volunteers, purchasing office and IT equipment, venue hire, advertising and marketing material, COVID-19 cleaning equipment and training, plus salaries for an event coordinator, administration support, and a media consultant.


The event was a major success, bringing the community together and engaging visitors from surrounding towns. Best of all, there were little to no changes needed to their original plan. Event organisers said they were “proud of the venues, the accommodation and hospitality businesses that supported the artisans and hosted them in their venues, and we are proud of the artisans who provided the engagement that brought everyone here.”