Spiral Gallery in Bega may be the longest running artist run initiative (ARI) in regional Australia.
It first opened in 1997, led by a group of local women including Barb Crowden, Jude Lamb, Moira Turnbull and Tanja Riese.
These women wanted to establish an independent space for artists in the region, but particularly for women artists to find a space away from domestic rigours, where they could be supported in their creative practice and find financial independence.
This year, the non-profit celebrates its 25th anniversary and has marked the occasion with an exhibition of work by 55 former and current members, now on exhibition at the Basil Sellers Exhibition Centre in Moruya until 12 June.
"It's really fascinating when you look at the list of the actual the artists who have been members," Spiral Gallery chairperson Diana Stewart said.
"There's some very well known artists, many are still living in the area, though some have moved away. And a lot of the artists have exhibited in Sydney, and Canberra and Melbourne, in other places beyond our region.
"It's been a stepping stone for many people in their artistic practice and in their art careers."
Ninety members have joined Spiral Gallery over its lifetime and the gallery boasts an annual average of 450 artists who exhibit across 16 exhibitions.
Part of what makes Spiral Gallery successful is its open access model.
"We're the only open access space in the Bega Valley region. And that means anyone can put in a proposal and apply to have an exhibition at our space," Ms Stewart said.
It is rare to find an ARI with such a long history, especially in a regional area.
As Ms Stewart pointed out, while many exist in capital cities around Australia where there was more potential for art sales and financial support for ARIs, the situation was different in the regions.
"It's a totally volunteer run organisation, we don't get operational support from council or local, or federal or state funding bodies. So we have to operate like a small business, we have to cover our rent, all our running costs, insurance, and so on.
"And to do that as volunteers with no paid staff for 25 years, I think it's really amazing," she said.
ARIs are well recognised within the arts sector as an important foundation for an active arts community. Galleries and spaces like Spiral Gallery support artists by helping them find audiences and creating space for experimentation in their creative practice.
"Spiral Gallery offers opportunities that artists and the community may not have access to otherwise," Ms Stewart said.
"It's a hub of artistic creativity."
Next week, the gallery will present the South Coast Indigenous Artists Exhibition, opening on Friday May 27 and running until June 22.
Later in the year it will host its 11th annual Plethora of Postcards exhibition.