The didgeridoo building in Yass has been somewhat of a landmark over the years. A run-down, boarded-up building—vacant for 19 years, and with its three didgeridoos in the forecourt you can imagine it being a common meeting place for visitors; ‘meet you at the didgeridoos—you can’t miss them’, and indeed you couldn’t … until now. By Aine Dowling
Tootsie is the brainchild of local mosaic artist Michaela Pothan, who has brought the building out of its sad and dusty 19 year hiatus and turned it into an art-deco butterfly—full of colour, life, and energy, and with its new name, it’s raring to go!
Tootsie, in case you’re wondering, is the old Chevy parked out the front—well actually that’s not the real Tootsie. The real Tootsie has gone to Gundagai to be rebuilt but the other Chevy is close enough. “Tootsie was my grandfather’s car,” says Michaela, “and when I was younger he gave her to me. She’s been languishing in the shed for many years; seemingly forgotten—much like this building, but now she’s undergoing a transformation too.” Step inside the new building and into the wonderful world of art-deco. With pressed tin ceilings, retro furniture, and an impressive collection of artworks, Tootsie is a gallery and coffee shop in one with the art and furniture all part of the café experience.
The building now includes the revamped entry with its stunning mosaics and café corner, the gallery, a large workshop, and a beautiful outdoor garden area which we’ll come back to later. Michaela is running the gallery as a collective with works from many local artists including painters, photographers, mosaic artists, and glass and metal workers. Pieces from Peter Crisp Gallery and artist Jan Matson are just a few of the local names on display. Mosaic classes are held in the workshop.
The artwork will change fairly regularly as Michaela plans to run theme based art—at least for the paintings. The gallery opened in November 2015 with Girt by Sea—an Australian theme which included oceans, beaches, and landscapes—now its Beauty in the Beast and includes smiling paintings of poultry and pigs, dogs and cats, snow leopards, big cats, and wildlife, and a selection of simply stunning photographs of horses by local photographer Nicole Godding, as well as the most amazing metal sculptures in the rear garden.
The garden also includes The Wall—again a brilliant initiative by Michaela who decided that a blank wall was just not good enough, and, to encourage community involvement in the development of the gallery, contacted mosaic artists in Australia and around the world to contribute a small panel to be attached to the wall. The artists responded with enthusiasm and the result is breathtaking. The wall is not complete—pieces are still to come from overseas, but the response has been amazing.
“Artists just loved the idea and got right behind the project,” says Michaela. “We received some beautiful local pieces, and then the international responses started to come in. We sent them specifications and they sent their mosaic piece back on light webbing and we just fixed it to the wall and grouted it on. On seeing photos of their piece on the wall, many interstate and international contributors have now decided to come and visit and view the wall in person—something that will also contribute to the Yass tourist industry.”
So take a trip out to Tootsie and soak up the art and ambience and enjoy coffee and cake at the same time. And, while you’re there, see if you can spot the hidden items on the entrance mosaic. During the renovation, six items were discovered under floorboards, in wall cavities, and other nooks and crannies and were included in the mosaic. Can you spot them?
All images by LFW