Byron Coathup

Byron Coathup is a passionate Cooly artist who has lived in the southern beachside suburb most of his life. 

His colourful portfolio boasts the likes of Bleach* Festival, the creation of a local community arts space and a recent collaboration with Gold Coast fashion label The Undercurrent.

We chat with Byron about his love for Coolangatta and the exciting international project he’s got in the works.

How did you get to where you are today?

I have no idea! I just started out knowing I wanted to be an artist.  I think if you believe you are something you’ll become whatever you believe. You tend to attract the right people and projects when you have that seed implanted.

I studied at Gold Coast Queensland College of Art and did a short city stint in Melbourne studying design at RMIT. Upon my return home to Coolangatta I started working with Bleach* Festival from its very first year. 

I think as long as you’re dedicated to learning and updating your skills and mindset you will get somewhere you want to be.  I do still have a long way to go though.

You co-own and curate an arts space, Maverick Hair and Art in Coolangatta, how did that come about?

My partner, Hayley and I just dreamt it up one day after a night out on the town. We both wanted to run our own lives and work for ourselves.  We sat out the front of a rundown Art Deco style shop on McLean Street and just closed our eyes and believed we would move into that very shop.  Three months later it was still available so we faced our fears and opened shop! 

It’s now been running for four years and we just moved to a much large premise up the road. It feels so good! From our first inception we have had this idea of it being a ‘community space’ where anyone can come and just expand their true selves – become their inner maverick. 

I always think of it like this: everyone has hair and everyone always needs to get the odd chop so why not make this transformation more exciting.  We have a really supportive clientele.

What will people see when they visit the space?

We have a loft style shop that looks over Coolangatta’s main street.  The front half of the shop is our hair salon and the back half is the Art Space.  You’ll find a new art exhibition on here every three weeks. We also sell awesome alternative art books and design wares that you won't find anywhere else on the Gold Coast.

What do you love most about the local arts scene?

We are all connected in some weird way or another.  Everyone just hangs out and we are all quite close knit.  There is always room for improvement and we are always reinventing ourselves consistently. 

The Gold Coast is now the 6th largest city in Australia! That’s huge! I still wonder why we only have a small arts scene still but we are growing!  I feel it has something to do with our parallel design of the city – we have to jump on the Gold Coast Highway and head north or south.  It’s a one-way strip and we all drive A LOT to get to each others events, happenings and exhibitions.

I just love that even though its not the easiest city to get around, everyone still turns up and supports each other. That’s the main thing; we have to keep turning up and keeping the vibe alive!

How have you seen it grow since you’ve been involved? 

We have a killer bunch of emerging artists coming out of the woodwork now.  These kids are our future and they will go on to do even better things than we are accomplishing now. 

I can see way more opportunities arising down the track for both generations. I think we are at a stage where we are generating our identity and mapping our culture while other cities are watching.

The next decade is just going to be full tilt and I think it’s our duty to support those younger artists by providing them with opportunities and space to exhibit work and make art.

What else are you working on at the moment?

A collaborative project I dubbed, Super Souvenir. It’s an informative website and collaboration with local artists and craft businesses designing quirky souvenir products in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games. I’m also hoping to travel to Miami (Florida) in July for a project and exhibition I am working on with Rebecca Ross from The Walls Art Space in Miami.

It’s an inaugural international exchange called MIAMI/MIAMI and will initiate a new collaboration between myself and artist-run space ‘Dimensions Variable’, from the US Miami. Aside from this, I will continue to run and curate a great bunch of exhibitions and events at Maverick Hair & Art Space for the rest of the year! My mind never settles.

Tell us about your collaboration with the Coast’s new fashion label The Undercurrent?

Exciting stuff really.  I am really into souvenirs and the Gold Coast should have a really great range.  We have a huge history and tradition of souvenirs and it’s best not to see them as a ‘corny’ and ‘tacky’ tourist purchases but for locals to start to wear such designs with pride. 

We are proud to be Gold Coasters and we have a lot of potential to map each suburb with its individual style and feel. 

My t-shirt design for Coolangatta is a collection of heroic iconography that I have drawn to best create an image of how I see this town.  We are essentially a small surf town that thankfully still hasn’t been over taken by the northern urban sprawl. 

It’s quiet and humbling to live here inside a fibro surf shack with amazing beaches and waves right there!  We have heaps of beautiful Norfolk Pines lining the beaches and the odd humorous Brush Turkey kicking by. 

It’s the original ‘Old’ Gold Coast and I hope it stays that way!