In the eucalyptus clad hills of the Yarra Valley, artist Justus Jorgensen, with the help of many hands, established the colony in the 1930s. The cluster of more than a dozen buildings were designed and built by the residents of the colony. The detritus from the demolition of some of the grand buildings of Melbourne were used, along with locally quarried stone, and locally produced mud brick. What they created is reminiscent of a village in the south of France, rather than one located in the antipodes.
The grandest building on the site is the Great Hall, one of the main beneficiaries of the work of iconic demolisher 'Whelan the Wrecker'. The large stained glass windows and gothic balconies were obtained from the Royal Insurance Building in Collins Street. Gargoyles and other windows were carved by students. Some of Jorgensen's paintings, made during the 'Grand Tour' of the artistic capitals of Europe which he and his wife made in the 1920s now adorn the walls. Other 'found objects' include an cast iron spiral staircase, plus architrave mouldings and some of the doors and windows (from the Bourke Street's Bijou Theatre).
Other notable buildings include the rustic Barn Gallery, where most exhibitions are displayed (the fireplace is all that survives from a fire in 1996), and the Long Gallery. The small bluestone Chapel is a popular venue for weddings and funerals.
Mud brick cottages house residents, and ducks, geese and peacocks wander the gardens.
Whilst the grounds and buildings are most commonly used for exhibitions, performances, conferences, seminars, weddings and receptions, many artists still live and work at Montsalvat. Classes on various disciplines of art are offered year round by the resident artists. See the website or enquire on site for details.
There is a restaurant on site, which is a fine place for a warming coffee on a winter afternoon. The entry fee of $14 (in 2015), is a little steep. The colony is open 7 days a week, from 9am-5pm
An old gorgeous artists colony, founded by Justus Jorgensen, a student of Max Meldrum, in 1934.
There is also a little bluestone chapel on the grounds.
Visit the website for the exhibition and performance calender.
The Montsalvat restaurant:
Breakfast - Tuesday - Sunday
Lunch - Tuesday - Sunday
Dinner - Functions Only, bookings 9431 2681
One of Melbourne's best kept secrets is this artists colony - which is a pity really as its one of the highlights of the city and can be combined with a visit to Heide (see previous tip). Its not easy to get too (hence the 'secret') being 26 kms from the city.
Founded in the 1930s, its a complete hotch-potch, seemingly random collection of buildings and grounds, all built from salvaged and recycled material. Where else in Australia will you find a copy of a 16th century European Great Hall, a 17th century Portuguese poolside terrace, 19th century Welsh High Church chapel and any number of homesteads, workshops and cafes? The artists work is for sale - from paintings through to jewelry through to musical instruments, and its all a bit rough round the edges (thus benefitting from being a secret!).
$6 entrance fee payable.