The roots of Maitland’s newest art gallery stretch far, far away from the Hunter city – with their origins in the far north of Scotland.
That’s where The Levee Art Gallery and Studios owner Lorna Ballantyne Epps hails from.
Her long road to Maitland started from her time working alongside husband Bob in the British defence forces, in a career that saw them live across the world and serve in locations such as Northern Ireland and Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall before their retirement.
“When we settled back in the UK after serving all over the world, we felt like there was nothing for us in the UK,” Lorna said.
The pair made the call to pack up and move to Australia, where Lorna started working in a job in corporate sales.
But a long-held artistic impulse was bubbling just below the surface for the Scotswoman as she began to commit more and more time to her own artwork.
This would see her begin to branch out from the couple’s Central Coast home, exhibiting and selling works in Sydney as well as at Newcastle’s Olive Tree Markets and Renew Newcastle on Hunter Street.
A desire to avoid the commute and find a permanent home for her art saw the pair explore Maitland, where they found the old, dimly-lit consultancy firm at 282 High Street.
“We came and had a look and fell in love,” she said.
They set to work stripping back the former workplace into a studio and workshop on the bottom floor, while moving into the residence on the second storey.
They’ll hold an official opening on July 28 but business is already underway.
Alongside exhibiting her own works and fellow artists’ artworks, Lorna also hosts workshops and stocks Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.
“It’s about making an opportunity for other artists if they want to hang in a commercial gallery without the risk,” she said of the space.
She said being part of Maitland’s burgeoning art scene and the proximity to the Maitland Regional Art Gallery and Studio Amsterdam added to the site’s appeal.
“MRAG and the community have been so supportive of it,” she said.
“Being part of this growing art scene – it’s really cool.”