An art lovers' guide to Newcastle

An art lovers' guide to Newcastle


Image above © Newcastle Afoot

Australia’s coolest city by the sea has long nurtured and inspired generations of artists.

Jon Molvig, John Olsen and William Dobell are but a few renowned artists that hail from Newcastle. The much loved Margaret Olley also lived and painted here – claiming the Obelisk as her studio - while today contemporary artists James Drinkwater and Brett McMahon call Newy home.

Explore the city’s creative roots with this art lovers' guide to Newcastle.

See art at the old clanger

Once home to inmates, The Lock-Up is now an award-winning independent arts space showcasing local and contemporary Australian art.

Housed in one of Newcastle’s most significant heritage buildings - complete with preserved padded cell and windowless exercise yard (shudder) - it operated as Newcastle Police Station from 1861 until 1982.

Inside its once austere walls you’ll find art exhibitions, workshops, creative talks and more.

Insider tip: While there check out the perforated steel balustrade out the front which cleverly melds the building’s new use with the story of its past.

Gallery hop

Spend a weekend gallery hopping:

  • Cooks Hill Gallery hosts regular exhibitions and showcases artworks from a stable of Australian artists, from contemporary to colonial
  • cStudios is just the place for contemporary and fine art
  • A boutique group of Australian artists are represented at Blackstone Gallery
  • SMAC Studio in Tighes Hill is a space where artists come together to create, display or teach
  • Newcastle Art Space (NAS) showcases an artist-run exhibition, workshops and local art prizes
  • Lighthouse Arts Newcastle located in the cottages on the Nobbys-Whibayganba headland. Offer residencies for writers and artists, exhibitions and events for the public, as well as an Arts Trade Store featuring work curated by local creatives
  • The Creator Incubator is a lively creative hub housing 38 resident artists, designers, makers and thinkers, as well as two professional quality exhibition spaces. Stop by to observe the artists' studios, visit The Gallery spaces and speak with the artists

Insider tip: Check out one of NAS’s regular exhibitions or book in for one of its inspiring artist talks or workshops.

Explore Newcastle's burgeoning street art

Newcastle is home to an ever expanding outdoor gallery of whimsical, edgy and old school street art. You’ll find a tattooed girl holding a rose, a vintage inspired seaside scene while a wedding alter awaits Newcastle’s most attractive couple.

Livening up city walls are several stunning works from Newcastle’s Big Picture Festival, featuring:

  • Artist Inari Meyers’ striking large scale portrait can be found on a large wall between NUspace and University House on Auckland Street
  • Local mural artist Bronte Naylor’s vintage inspired seaside scene ‘Mirror Ocean’ is found in Civic Square
  • Fintan Magee’s awe inspiring large-scale ‘Shadow’ is found at Museum Park.

One of the most popular events of Newcastle's New Annual, held across the City in Spring each year - is the creation of a stunning 3D Chalk the Walk Artwork Trail. A permanent 3D mural can be viewed throughout the year - "Where there is life there is hope" created by Australia's most highly awarded pavement artist, Jenny McCracken. The stunning 22m long artwork, showcases two great migrating species that move past Newcastle each year: the iconic Humpback Whale and the Swift Parrot whose population is still in trouble.

Hot tip: You can join Newcastle Afoot’s new Newcastle Architecture, Street Art and Hidden Secrets Walk. Guided by Big Picture Fest organiser Becky Kiil the tour explores the city’s most celebrated works.

Create your own masterpiece

Want to unleash your own inner artist?

Join a fun paint and sip class at Newcastle artist Mitch Revs Gallery. Professional artists guide participants through a fun step-by-step painting class involving singing, painting and sipping.

Hudson Street Hum, a short stroll from Hamilton Railway Station, also offers a wide choice of creative workshops ranging from portrait drawing, landscapes in water colour, moss embroidery and pyrography (wood burning).

Book in advance as classes fill up quickly!

Walk in the shoes of Newcastle artists

The Artist’s City Way is a self-guided walking trail taking art lovers on a tour of Newcastle through the eyes of artists that have lived and created here.

Visit galleries that have celebrated their work and view the extraordinary breadth of public art that populates the Newcastle landscape.

The walking tour starts at Obelisk Park, a favourite drawing spot of Newcastle’s most revered adopted artist, Margaret Olley. It concludes at Newcastle Art Gallery where a five-tonne steel and fibreglass sculpture by Australia artist Brett Whiteley towers over the entrance.

Admire NSW's second-largest art collection

*Currently closed for upgrades*

Opened by Queen Elizabeth II, Newcastle Art Gallery is home to one of Australia’s most significant public art collections. Housed in a 1970s geometric brutalist building, the 6,700-piece collection ranges from Australian art from colonial times to the present day, important indigenous work and paintings of early Newcastle by convict artist Joseph Lycett. There’s also works by Hans Heyson, Sidney Nolan, Patricia Piccinini and Newcastle born Jon Molvig, John Olsen and William Dobell - one of Australia’s most celebrated painters.

Insider tip: Stroll to the corner of Bull and Corlette Streets Cooks Hill (now a café) to see Dobell’s birth place.

*Take a virtual tour of Newcastle Art Gallery.