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!
The Gold Coast’s local art scene has blossomed exponentially in the last few years. Galleries, installations and murals have popped up all over the Coast and local artists are making themselves known both here and on the national scene.
If you’re looking for a unique way to spend a day on the Gold Coast, we’ve got just the answer. Here’s a list of local galleries to help you get your art fix.
Wayne Sorrenson Gallery
World-renowned landscape photographer Wayne Sorrenson opened his very own gallery in Miami in 2020 so we, the lucky Gold Coasters get to peruse his breathtaking art anytime we like. Within the gallery, there’s a huge selection of framed artwork to purchase, as well as a range of gift ideas including acrylic blocks, greeting cards and calendars to name a few. It’s all absolutely magical and a lovely stand-in for the international travel we aren’t allowed to do right now.
Where: 40 Lemana Lane, Miami
Anthea Polson Art
Anthea Polson Art specialises in contemporary emerging Australian art and sculpture, including investment works. A regular exhibition programme showcases the work of emerging and established contemporary artists.
Where: 29 Tedder Avenue, Main Beach
Maverick Hair & Art Space
Maverick is a small gallery hosting community art exhibitions and events throughout the year. Headed up by artist Byron Coathup and partner Hayley, the space (also boasting a hair studio) caters for art and design lovers and offers beautiful gifts for purchase from both near and far. Don’t be afraid to head up the stairs and check out the gallery.
Where: First Floor, 1/17 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
The Hive Burleigh Heads
The newest of the bunch, The HIVE was opened very recently by Jo Ellings, a Gold Coast artist who has been creating stunning works for over 30 years and is now sharing that talent with the likes of us. Within the gallery you’ll find an array of stunning works to take home with you or, if you’d like to stay awhile why not grab a ticket to one of their workshops and become an artist yourself. There’s also a regular meetup and music night if you want to meet some like-minded folks.
Where: 5/3 Park Avenue, Burleigh Heads
Level Up studio + gallery
The space is designed to provide access to art experiences for young people and adults within the local community and beyond, through public programs hosting a range of creative activations, such as art workshops, artist talks, school holiday workshops, networking events and an exciting monthly exhibitions program. Emerging artists can apply for space and we can all pop in there to check out the magic. So good.
Where: 72-82 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
The Walls Art Space Miami
The Walls is an interactive space that began in 2012 aiming to serve as a hub of creative practice, critical dialogue and innovative thinking around contemporary art. Their annual program focus is to curate monthly exhibitions in conjunction with their successful local artist in residence program.
Where: 4/18 Mountain View Avenue, Miami
Created by the good people at ArtWork Agency, AW Space is a pretty art gallery slash workshop slash event space showcasing the work of a team of folks whose names you’ve no doubt heard uttered once or twice. They are Claudio Kirac and his equally impressive partners in crime Paul Bow and Laura Strange. All talented within their own rights, the team have combined their forces to create a stunning space filled with beautiful works. Do yourself a favour and get in there.
Where: 2/53-55 Cronulla Avenue, Mermaid Beach
Stop in for a delicious brunch overlooking the ocean and take in the collection of local art and handmade goodies next door while you’re there! The space combines works by local artists with a new store filled with locally made homewares, clothing and creative pieces.
Where: 275 Boundary Street, Coolangatta
19Karen Contemporary Artspace
A stunning space filled with bold new art (and all for purchase!) by emerging, mid-career and established Australian and International artists. Exhibitions curated by Terri Lew rotate regularly, ranging in style and genre from pop culture, surrealism, realism, street art, abstraction and to the still undefined.
Where: 19 Karen Avenue, Mermaid Beach
The Gold Coast’s premier cultural precinct, HOTA (Home of The Arts) has been showcasing visual and performing arts since 1986. With an array of exhibitions, cinemas and dining/bar facilities, there’s something for everyone throughout the entire year. In 2021, we’ll see the precinct increase in size with an incredible new six-level Gallery that’s due to open with world-class exhibitions (including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and more) plus a showcase of incredible local artists.
Where: 135 Bundall Road, Surfers Paradise
A refurbished warehouse (a piece of art itself) in the heart of Currumbin Waters, Dust Temple and its creative space Hinge Gallery hosts local, national and international artists, musicians and poets. There’s also a fantastic café / coffee shop, so stay awhile and soak up the creative scene.
Where: 54 Currumbin Creek Road, Currumbin Waters
The Gold Coast is known for many things, one of which is definitely our beautiful waterways. Slightly lesser known perhaps is our rich Aboriginal history, wildlife conservation efforts and the passionate locals sharing the stories.
That’s about to change though thanks to Kayak the Gold Coast’s new ‘Heart of the Gold Coast’ half-day tour package.
Incorporating a unique spin on their original tours, ‘Heart of the Gold Coast’ takes guests on a cultural experience unlike anything the Coast has seen before.
The package begins at the Burleigh Jellurgal Cultural Centre where guests watch a short film on the Gold Coast’s Aboriginal history including ancient burial sites and the unique ways of the Yugambeh people who lived in Burleigh Heads over 4,000 years ago.
After receiving an ochre blessing, the tour heads out onto Burleigh Hill where guests are taken on a sub-tropical hike and told stories of the Aboriginal people who lived there thousands of years ago, how they lived and hunted food and how they believe the mountain was formed.
The hike comes complete with stunning views of the Coastline and a dolphin sighting if you’re lucky.
It’s both an educational and spiritual experience and you can’t help but be awe-struck by the passion with which the Indigenous tour guides share their people’s history and beliefs.
A delicious morning tea follows and then it’s sunscreen, life jackets and onto the kayaks for a leisurely cruise down the ridiculously beautiful and tranquil Tallebudgera Creek.
A quick stop over for a dip, past the (huge) local Osprey’s nest and guests pull up to the purpose built kayak ramp at David Fleay Wildlife Park.
Maybe you’ve been to Fleay’s but if not (guilty), there is a lot to learn about the man who paved the way for animal conservation in Australia.
David Fleay was passionate about keeping animals in enclosures the same as they would inhabit in the wild and after moving to the Gold Coast from Melbourne, he and his wife purchased land next to the creek and did exactly that.
With constant research and conservation techniques, he created a wildlife park resembling local wetlands.
The package includes the park’s Creatures of the Night show featuring an absolutely delightful sugar glider and a Bilby who literally buries his head in the sand.
We’re a lucky bunch here on the Coast, surrounded by enriching culture, both natural and historic and people whose passion it is to share that culture with anyone willing to listen.
‘Heart of the Gold Coast’ is an incredibly enriching tour package for both locals who may be unaware of our extensive Aboriginal history and visitors who want to experience our incredible natural wonders while also learning about how they came to be.
· Pick up and drop off from your hotel
· Indigenous history + kayak + wildlife park entry
· Morning tea
· Water, sunscreen & paddling lesson
· Small groups and personal service
· The best of Burleigh Heads
· Toilets + café
· Complimentary photographs of kayaking
Tour package runs from 7.30am until 12pm through Kayak the Gold Coast.
Coolangatta is our southernmost suburb and an uncomplicated little town. Apart from when in summer (and outside lockdowns), you can travel between two time zones — by simply crossing the street!
Time travelling aside, Coolangatta has long been loved for its laidback, beachside vibes and of course, pumping surf when the elements align and the swell fills in. These days, there is a multitude of reasons to visit other than amazing beaches and world-class waves. These include outstanding food venues, lively bars and a few other businesses worthy of your attention. So here are some worthy reasons for a nip into Cooly town.
Have a beachside coffee at Vanilla Lily
Quite possibly Coolangatta’s prettiest cafe, Vanilla Lily is serving up solid coffees and fresh eats in a beautiful setting opposite Greenmount Beach. Chill with the local community who love this hangout and enjoy the delectable fare. Our pick is the Avocado Toast with sliced radish, dried chilli flakes, pomegranate and drizzled with raw honey and lemon on a slice of sourdough.
Where: Shop 2, 110 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Drink a beer at the Coolangatta Hotel
The Cooly Hotel is an absolute must-do. This well-known bar is opposite the town’s main stretch of sand and is often the place folks find themselves towards the latter part of the day. The attractions are world-class live music and great vibes aplenty. Pull up a chair and make an afternoon of it with salt-licked breezes blowing and uninterrupted beach views.
Where: Corner Warner Street & Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Enjoy some good food at Choofas Smokehouse & Seafood
Conveniently located on the town’s main street, the guys at Choofas offer some exceptional fresh and cooked seafood alongside BBQ style smoked meats, ribs, buffalo wings, burgers, steak, chicken and salads able to fill all hungry-bellies. The BBQ smoked meats are rubbed with Choofas own dark dry rub, then cooked long and slow to ensure tenderness and flavour. Choofas Horn Bar is also stocked with over 60 top brand rums, otherwise enjoy a cold beer on tap while overlooking Coolangatta beach as the sun goes down.
Where: 150 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Grab a pie from the Coolangatta Pie Shop
This iconic Gold Coast pie shop has been around for over 50 years, so it’s no wonder they’re serving up some of the tastiest pies around. You can also get some outrightly delicious caramel slices while you’re at it. Perfect for a mid-morning fuel up or after a big afternoon session of surfing. Fun fact: they’re open 24 hours on weekends.
Where: 50 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Eat pizza at Francie’s Pizzeria
Francie’s is some of the best pizza you’ll ever sample, so without hesitation, it quickly became the local’s favourite pizza bar. As purely a walk-in and no reservations style venue, swing by ahead of the crowd for delicious and inventive toppings. Our pick is the Pears Brosnan: Gorgonzola, pear, Prosciutto, and Mozzarella. YUM.
Where: 2/102 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Take a stroll through The Strand
The Strand at Coolangatta is a great respite from all the action at the beach. Filled with all you retail needs (ALDI, Woolies etc), dining (the views from the upstairs restaurants are outstanding) and entertainment (hello Timezone and Cooly’s only cinema). Spend some time strolling around the boutique shops in the air-con; you’re sure to find something you love here.
Where: 72-80 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Scoop your way through all the flavours at Ottimo
Ottimo serves up great coffee and makes all of their moreish gelatos in-house, but why are their plethora of dazzling flavours so damn good? Likely because the owner and head gelato maker Davide is Italian and has studied for a diploma from the Gelato University of Carpigiani — we didn’t make this up, it’s true!
Where: 18/52 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Release your inner child at Timezone
Have the heavens opened up? Or are you simply up for a bit of fun? Timezone Coolangatta features full-sized bowling lanes, over 200 video games, dodgem cars and laser skirmish. Not just one for the kids!
Where: Level 1, 72-80 Marine Parade, The Strand, Coolangatta
Start your day with brekky at South East Espresso
A Cooly favourite for a tasty breakfast and excellent poured Paradox coffee, find South East Espresso tucked a block back from the majestic Rainbow Beach. It’s the ideal spot to satisfy those early morning hankerings, and if you fancy visiting again (which you will after a surf), they’re open for lunch too.
Where: 5 Dutton Street, Coolangatta
Indulge in an Italian feast at Little Cooly
Little Cooly is serving up some mind-blowing handmade pasta alongside a 100-strong Italian wine list that reads like a love letter to Italy itself. If it’s date night, look no further — and if you’re desperate for great pasta, well they have you covered on all bases. In an ode to the local area, dishes have been named after Gold Coast icons and suburbs and shine a light on local produce, for instance The Snapper Rocks features Tweed River prawns, mango, cashews and avocado or The Greenmount features Bangalow bacon, spicy chorizo, a fried egg and mozzarella.
Where: Level 1, Shop 120/72-80 Marine Parade, The Strand, Coolangatta
Get your art on at Maverick Hair & Art Studio
Pop into this tucked away gallery for a fabulous hair spruce up or to enjoy some fresh local art including that of Cooly local Byron Coathup. You’re sure to find sweet, locally designed souvenirs to take home. Your favourite local brand, The Undercurrent is stocked here too. Grab a Cooly tee to remember your time.
Where: First Floor, 1/17 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Take in the view at Greenmount Beach Surf Club
With unsurpassed views in a northerly direction, you can take in everything overlooking the spectacular Greenmount Beach right up to the skyline of Surfers Paradise and, on some days, beyond. If the surf is good, you can also be entertained by surfers as they jostle with each other and generally tear waves apart — the level here is high. Our favourite is an icy schooner in hand and an amber sunset: perfection.
Where: Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Eat a burger at Eddie’s Grub House.
Rock ‘n roll meets fried chicken, burgers and whiskey: does it get any better than that? Get a mouthful of naughty but nice American classics in this soul food dive bar. They regularly have live music and karaoke nights and are one of the best spots to catch up with mates before a night on the town.
Where: 171 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Shop local at Cooly’s Beachside Markets
On every second and fourth Sunday of the month, Queen Elizabeth Park comes alive with plenty of local traders selling anything from raw produce to clothing and accessories. The perfect place to take a stroll with a coffee in hand and the sun on your face — be prepared to spend some money.
Where: Queen Elizabeth Park, Coolangatta
Have a sunset cocktail at Moxy’s Rooftop Bar
This Griffith Street rooftop bar is always packed with sunset and weekend revellers sipping on cocktails living their best lives, and this should include you. Regular DJs and insta-worthy drinks mean this venue is a top place to see in the weekend or alternatively help you get over a hump day from hell. Either way, head upstairs and let the good times roll.
Where: 2/152-154 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Words by Alex Mitcheson.