Through the passion of Carolyn Crossley the Cowwarr Art Space and CAN Inc. have delivered a program comprising; residencies, exhibitions, performance and social engagement for over 20 years. 

Photo Credit: Peter Hellberg

Original Vision

The Cowwarr Art Space came into being when Carolyn Crossley purchased the old Cowwarr Butter Factory in November 1992. It took six months of extensive renovations before it opened as the Cowwarr Art Space in June 1993. Carolyn was led by her personal vision to create a highly flexible, inclusive Art Space. It is through nurturing and expanding relationships that her vision was achieved and in 1994 Cowwarr Arts Network (CAN Inc.) the not-for-profit Incorporated Association was formed and continues to operated out of the space to this day.  Carolyn's original concept is working, the exhibition program continues throughout the year and the residency program has hosted a 110 artists from 16 countries to date. 

Photo Credit: Mitya Ku

Architecture - Federation Arts & Craft

The former Cowwarr Butter Factory is architecturally significant as a rare example of an industrial building employing Federation Arts & Crafts design traditions. Built in 1918 it combines innovative end of WW1 building construction methods with the honest, substantial and moralistic features of the William Morris initiated Arts and Craft movement. This went on to form the basis of the architectural work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Burley Griffin. The distinctive styling and concrete construction define the building as an extraordinary example of a factory, particularly in the context of the many other cheese butter factories built in Victoria in the early 20th century. Many of the original elements of the butter factory including, boiler mountings, draft channels and brick chimney still remain.

The building is listed with Heritage Victoria REGISTER NO. 1282, U625243F 06/02/1997

Photo Credit: dimnikolov

Early History

The discovery of Gold at Walhalla in 1862 created great expansion in the surrounding townships as they provided services, provisions, accommodation and horses for the Gippsland diggings. Cowwarr was originally called Forty Second, because the 42nd clause of the Land Act of 1865 was enacted specifically to apply to the region to restrict selections to 20 acres and only for a limited number of years, this was to release land for the production of food crops and an alternate employment for failed gold miners. After much local farmer lobbying, claiming the small plots were not viable, the act was revised in 1869 to allow for selection of up to 320 acres. Democracy at work.

Dairy farms were developed and The Fresh Food and Storage Company opened a creamery around 1880. In 1897 The Cowwarr Cheese and Butter Factory Co. Ltd. was formed and constructed a wooden building in the main township of Cowwarr and in 1918 the current factory was established near the newly constructed railway station. Now redeveloped as the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail.

Of course the history goes far beyond that of white settlement. The Gunaikurnai people are the Traditional Owners of Gippsland. There are approximately 3,000 Gunaikurnai people, and their territory includes the coastal and inland areas to the southern slopes of the Victorian Alps. Gunaikurnai people have occupied the land for over 30,000 years.  Gunaikurnai Nation is made up of five major clans. Cowwarr Art Space is on the land of the Brayakaulung people.  Learn More

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Living the Dream

The Cowwarr Art Space, is now a highly effective, nationally recognised creative space, that incorporates facilities for; exhibitions, performances, workshops, training and residential studios that attracts, state, national and international artists. By delivering a program that gives the audience a positive experience and an insight into current arts practice it ensures the local community has access and the opportunity to engage with the arts and artists.

This privately funded facility is a unique cultural asset that contributes to and enhances the life of the surrounding Gippsland and broader community.