Strathnairn is what curator Peter Haynes calls in his best Latin “rus in urbis”. And I’ve adopted the phrase – I’m sure he wont mind - that describes the unique place of Strathnairn, the artists’ community sitting comfortably on our Canberra perimeter of bush we’re slowly urbanizing as the years go on. It was of course a working property of the rural kind and is now a working property of the artistic kind providing an environment for artists-in-residence to pursue their crafts, some to lease a studio, exhibit in the gallery or find time to think, consider, enjoy the silence, the aromas and the light then use the quiet to distill thought. Perfect surely for all of us, not just artists.
The shearing shed up the backyard was the venue for a welcome back dinner for guest of honour, Jon Stanhope, Strathnairn’s patron, with plenty of reflection on his contributions to this place while in government and the famous veggie patch he constructed for his private enjoyment and everyone's benefit. Now he’s back and his position as patron is one he’s going to enjoy as a hands on patron rather than via the electronic devices that have sufficed for the two year Christmas Island stint that has made him fitter than ever before. Time now to use the opportunity to create the orchard he’s pondered for years.
The other guest of honour was Anita McIntyre, the indefatigable supporter of Strathnairn who came out of retirement to keep this unique place ticking along those many years ago. Many of those she’s worked with and for came back to honour her efforts and as she’s stepped down from the board of Strathnairn it was a fitting recognition of her contribution to create a scholarship in her name. As a ceramicist graduating from the ANU School of Art in 1976 her work has a distinctive sense of place in the detail from a topographic viewpoint, and that ties in so well with the Strathnairn ethos. Supporting the tributes to Anita was Peter Haynes and Alan Watt, each with a Strathnairn connection and a long term admiration for this lady with a feel for the clay she uses so beautifully, and her commitment to the arts sectors of Canberra, her formidable ability to network and encourage support.
Anita’s husband John McIntyre is her rock. Diametrically opposed in some ways and as one in most. John is a former Raiders chairman who on this night secretly listened to the rugby league with Australia playing New Zealand while not missing a beat of the proceedings, and caught up with Michael Sainsbury the man who has worked manual magic for 24 years at Strathnairn and apparently also for a certain Raiders trophy that had an ‘oops a daisy’ in the hands of Laurie Daley.
Visit Strathnairn, it’s in west Belconnen, wander the outbuildings and the paddocks and support the enterprise. It’s part of what makes Canberra this most liveable city.