Former convent welcomes artists

Rory and Jessica Markham of Benedict House want to create an "arts hub" at the former convent and boarding school. Photo: Kim Pham.

Rory and Jessica Markham of Benedict House want to create an "arts hub" at the former convent and boarding school. Photo: Kim Pham.

WHILE the Artists Shed has been put on the market, another Queanbeyan institution Benedict House is reinventing itself as a local "arts hub".

Rory and Jessica Markham recently took over Benedict Houseand have continued running the Refectory Cafe, following the departure of owner Kate Shelton.

After a few renovations to the former convent, including new floorboards and some repainting, the couple now has plans to open up some of the rooms to create a shared arts space in the historic building.

They will lease four rooms on the ground floor as artists' studios and are open to hiring out rooms on a needs basis and for temporary and shorter periods.

They are also considering renting out an additional eight rooms in the former Men's Shelter located at the rear of the property.

"What we're hoping to do is open those rooms as a sharing space for artists. We want to entice regional and national artists into the space as a place to develop and sell their art," Mr Markham said.

"We want it to become an arts hub, a place where community members can come and see artists at work, ask them questions, and enjoy what we have to offer at the cafe."

The Markhams are in initial discussions with artists including jewellers, ceramicists, photographers and musicians to move into the rooms. The studios are expected to be up and running in August.

Mr Markham said the idea was based on the trend of "convent revivals" modelled on Melbourne's Abbotsford Convent, which has successfully combined professionals, "foodies", musicians and creatives into one space.

In addition to the artists, Canberra firm Boettcher Law will also open a locally-based office out of Benedict House. The office will be headed by Mr Markham who is also a lawyer.

n Any artists interested in leasing a space at Benedict House can contact Rory and Jessica Markham on 6284 2868.

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