Recycled church set to become Port Fairy arts hub

CYCLING, jazz music and vintage cars have all entranced John Davis since his formative years.

Now the Port Fairy artist is combining his many and varied passions into a new art gallery and café project which gained planning approval from the Moyne Shire last week.

Davis transported a disused church from northern Victoria to Port Fairy earlier this year as part of his grand gallery-café project and expects to have the Princes Highway site fully functional within six to eight months.

He told The Standard his new venture, 180 Miles By Bike, will be more than just a commercial set-up but also act to showcase his various collections. The venture is named after an old mile post located across the road from the gallery.

“Port Fairy has a really strong cycling community so we hope the café and gallery can become a place where cyclists can meet and take some time out after being on the road,” Davis said. 

“I have a number of vintage bicycles dating from the 1890s right through to some great ones from the 1950s. The place is built around a cycling theme, but it’s more than just that.

 “It’s obviously got a commercial aspect to it but we hope this really becomes another artistic hub in Port Fairy too.”

Art and music also forms part of Davis’ grand plan with the artist amassing more than 1000 jazz records over the decades. 

The gallery will also include a painting and pottery studio.

“You could say I have more than a few collections,” Davis laughed. 

“I’m planning to incorporate a 1960s caravan as part of the gallery and I’ve got a few classic cars that I’ll have on display too — a 1962 EK Holden and a 1967 Morris Minor that I imported from Leeds in the UK.”

The gallery-café has been a shared dream for Davis and his late partner Perolee. 

She died in May last year after being diagnosed with bowel cancer.

“We always envisaged making a sea change and setting up our own gallery,” Davis said. 

“Even after she received the bad news, Perolee told me to keep working at setting it up. 

“I have a heart-shaped garden out the front (of the site) but the whole place really is a tribute to her vision.”

The church building acquired by Davis used to be a Methodist church and community hall at Milnes Bridge, a hamlet between Cohuna and Kerang in northern Victoria.

 It was transported more than 400 kilometres by road earlier this year. 

“The Methodist community in Milnes Bridge used to use the building as a meeting point and we hope that we can continue on that tradition.

“As part of the works, I plan to install a fabulous stained glass bi-fold doors which depict Lake Colac,” Davis said.

“It’s quite a rarity but I reckon it’s a piece of local history worth sharing.” 

Moyne Shire councillors voted unanimously in favour of the Princes Highway development at a general meeting last week.

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