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Interview with Geelong’s Boom Gallery: the city’s creative mecca

It’s a trend happening the world over: satellite cities and former industrial towns are being transformed by gutsy creatives who use affordable real estate to springboard their dreams. Such is the case in former industrial city Geelong where business partners Ren Inei and Kate Jacoby spent the past four years transforming a former wool mill into a gallery and creative hub. The result? A a multidimensional creative mecca.

Independently funded, Inei and Jacoby began their journey early 2011 with a set of keys and a concrete grinder. Step inside Boom Gallery and you could be mistaken for thinking you’re in Brunswick (Melbourne), Redfern (Sydney) or even Daikanyama (Tokyo). Polished concrete, custom cabinetry and light fittings are tellings of a space lovingly handcrafted by its owners.

Boom Gallery represents the changing face of Geelong and many small cities and towns around the world. Boom Gallery now houses a gallery, retail showroom, cafe, shared studios, education space, function space and later this year, an urban garden.

Inei and Jacoby have created an environment where artists from around Australia can showcase their work, whilst local creatives from Geelong and the Surf Coast can rent an affordable workspace, or grab a coffee and soak up the atmosphere. Still relatively undiscovered by non-locals, Boom Gallery is tucked away in a riverside industrial pocket that sits alongside one of Geelong’s most affluent suburbs.

True to form, Boom Gallery supports local artists and designers and watch as their careers progress. One of their most notable successes is emerging furniture designer Adam Lynch. Co-founder of award-winning design studio Lab De Stu, Lynch and his partners were invited to exhibit at Milan Design Week and National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Now (2013).

Boom Gallery exhibits a diverse range of art and design including shows by Jeff Raglus, Ellie Malin, Jiri Tibor Noval and Glen Smith. Their buyers are loyal and enjoy Boom’s accessible pricing and relaxed atmosphere. Boom is akin to city galleries in its quality and passion, but distinctly laid-back – a luxury afforded by a slower pace.

I caught up with former teachers Inei and Jacoby, who were both born and raised in Geelong, about changing the face of their hometown’s creative offering.

Where do you go in Geelong for inspiration, the best coffee, the best creative wares (outside of Boom Gallery and The Dirty Rascal of course!)?

Geelong is ever-evolving and improving on all these fronts! When I get the chance, I go down to Swell cafe at Jan Juc for breaky followed by a cliff top walk to Bells Beach. In town I love to visit the Coffee Cartel Brew bar, with the best bookshop over the road – Barwon Booksellers. Also Fuel and King of the Castle for their excellent coffee. In terms of creative wares, I love a vintage treasure hunt, there are several great places to go…. Geelong Vintage Market, Brougham Street Markets, stacks of op shops… The Den Supply Co are relatively new and have a beautifully curated store well worth a visit.

How would you describe Boom Gallery’s impact on the local community?

We feel that Boom has had a significant impact. We have created a dynamic multi-faceted space that is different to anything else in our region. Through the gallery we have enabled many local artists and creatives to exhibit and sell their work, whilst the set up of Factory 21 has provided workspaces/studios to artists and creative professionals, contributing to the existing creative community of Rutland St (neighbours of the gallery/factory being a dance studio, commercial photographer, video production company, web designers, marketing agency….& more……). It is an exciting, mutually inspiring and supportive community. 

How would you describe the Boom Gallery buyer?

We have all sorts of people visiting and engaging with the Gallery, not a specific ‘type’. From the outset we wanted to create a space that was accessible (the opposite of intimidating, austere, precious) by incorporating a coffee bar into the centre of the gallery we have people popping in and out all day. Over the last few years we found a dedicated and enthused art audience with great responses to exhibitions and events such as artist talks/lunches and workshops. Customers looking for unique handmade design objects and jewellery have plenty of delightful things presented in our design store.

What has been your most proud moment to date relating to Boom Gallery? 

There have been a lot of highs over the last few years; lots of fantastic events and achievements.  I think the thing I am most proud of is the beauty of the physical space we have created. I still find the space captivating even though it is so familiar to me, knowing that we have achieved this through hard work, undertaking most of the physical work ourselves also makes me feel proud.

What are your future hopes and dreams for Boom Gallery?

We hope that Boom continues to evolve and grow possibly in ways we do not expect, as has been the case with our journey up to now. We are really excited to see our education space ‘The Workroom’ open in the next few weeks and see the timetable of art classes and workshops expand. The other major development for this year will be the set up of Boom Gardens (urban landscaping and permaculture display showcasing sustainable urban gardening practices). 

What are your online sources of inspiration?

My main online source of inspiration is Instagram, for its immediacy and networking potentials. I also tend to regularly check in on The Design Files for their range of stories & features (I enjoy the local aspect) and Broadsheet similarly. 

Boom Gallery hosts a monthly exhibition calendar and trades Monday – Saturday, 9am – 4pm where guests are invited to view the gallery, shop the retail space or visit on-site cafe The Dirty Rascal

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Images by Tom Ross.

3 thoughts on “Interview with Geelong’s Boom Gallery: the city’s creative mecca”

  1. The photography is absolutely stunning! This completely puts a completely new spin on the concept of contemporary & modern house plans or designs… Thanks so much for sharing!

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