Death of creativity
IT contributes more than $4million to the Clarence Valley economy each year but Grafton Artsfest is set to fold at the end of this month after 18 years of acclaimed arts workshops.
Attracting esteemed tutors from across Australia has been Artsfest's calling card and its success can be largely attributed to its foundation president Fay Boyd and equally long-serving secretary Gaye Thompson.
The pair, who volunteered side by side since the inception of Artsfest in 1994, handed in their resignations to the Artsfest committee last month.
No one else on the committee was able to make the commitment to run the event and without a president or secretary Artsfest cannot continue.
Fay said husband Ron's illness was one reason for her decision but she also felt that she could no longer offer the task 110%.
Gaye said it was about time she gave something back to her family whom, she said, had put up with her dedication to Artsfest for close to two decades.
"It's time for us to both enjoy our personal life before we get too old," she said.
Fay said she was most proud of the standard of tutors Artsfest attracted over the years, naming water colourist Robert Wade, chef Peter Howard and woodturner Richard Raffan as just three of many fine teachers to grace the workshops.
"The tutors get looked after very well, some of them even pay their own airfares to come," Fay said.
Artsfest was started by Gaye and Fay in 1994 when Camp Creative left Grafton.
The pair had worked on the Grafton Eisteddfod together for many years.
"We had six months to put together the first Artsfest," said Fay.
Artsfest hosted two week-long workshop semesters every year, one in the autumn school holidays, the other in the spring school holidays.
The latter was the larger of the two.
The next and final Artsfest, which will run from September 24, will attract about 300 students across 22 workshops.
Student numbers were much higher, closer to the 600 mark, said Fay, before the global financial crisis hit a big portion of Artsfest's clientele - self-funded retirees.
"Also, lots of arts schools have started up in the last few years," she said.
"Financially times are tough but we've still been able to attract students from every state in Australia."
Fay and Gaye attributed the success of Artsfest to the high standard of tutors offering their services.
They also recognised the contribution of treasurer Craig Griffin and the support the event received from Grafton High School.
"It's a sad time ... the closer it gets, the harder it gets," Gaye said.
Fay and Gaye admitted it would be a challenge to attract someone to the job and laughed at comparisons to the TV commercial promoting guide dogs which were lucky enough to work for nothing but love.
"We even have to pay for the dinners we go to ... there's no lurks and perks," Gaye said.
But the pair treasure the friendships forged and the amusing memories.