“Melburnians love a challenge,” says photographer J Forsyth, co-founder of Melbourne Arts Club (MAC). “Stick it in an alleyway and they'll go and find it.”

Last month Forsyth and her business partner Julia Howland opened an art gallery, shared office and furniture rental showroom there.

The duo had been looking for a permanent home for MAC for about a year. “I spent a lot of time checking out commercial leases around Abbotsford, Collingwood and Fitzroy,” Forsyth says. “They’re super-expensive, they’re very small, and you have to sign a long lease.”

That doesn’t really work for small-time art ventures like the three-year-old MAC, which has been staging a series of pop-up exhibitions around town titled Draw, Paint, Build, Screen and Shoot, each focussed on a different artistic discipline.

From May 29, the series will reboot at the former ski shop, beginning with Draw and moving on to the next category every six weeks. There’s no theme or size restrictions. If something has been drawn (or at future exhibits, painted, built, etc.), it qualifies. MAC is currently looking for new submissions, too.

Forsyth found the site through Active Spaces, a Darebin Council initiative which puts shop owners in touch with creative businesses. “With Active Spaces we don't have to sign a long lease or pay a bond,” she says. “The building’s being knocked down in 18 months, so they’re just happy to have us in here, really.”

She’s offsetting the rent with a studio, where anyone can rent wifi, a locker, a shared meeting room and a desk for $65 per week. There’s no IKEA or Officeworks stuff here, though. The attractive tables and chairs are all supplied by Forsyth’s sister Kate, whose business, Good Day Rentals, rents vintage furniture for weddings and other events, and displays some of its items in the front window.

Melbourne Arts Club Gallery and Studio
1/176-180 High Street, Preston
0426 840 575

Thu to Sat 11am‒4pm (studio residents can come and go as they please)