cooroy butter factory

Interactive Art: Cooroy Butter Factory Arts Center

Image source: Photographer Dave Gleeson

If gazing at art fills you with intrigue about the process behind the piece step into the Kaya Sulc Studio at one of Noosa’s leading art centres where you’ll gain an in-depth insight into the creative process. Sarah Vercoe unveils what awaits at the top of the Butter Factory Arts Centre’s staircase.

The Butter Factory Arts Centre (BFAC) in Cooroy is more than just a place art-lovers can go to gaze at the works of the talented artists hidden in our midst. It’s a place that connects community and art where the lines between artist and observer are blurred. 

If you’ve ever strolled the inspiring galleries of BFAC you may have noticed the unassuming stairway to the mezzanine level. Home to the Kaya Sulc Studio, named in honour of world-renowned artist Kaya Sulc who became a Cooroy local in his later years, this is where BFAC connects community and art on a new level as a space for artists to take up residency.

A light-filled atelier that’s a blank canvas for creatives to make their own and the public to come and share in the artistic process, it naturally lends itself to interaction. Creating art of any kind is an inherently layered process and the Kaya Sulc Studio Residency is the ideal platform for artists to lay bare their inner workings and for art-lovers to witness it. It’s an immersive experience from both perspectives, which is exactly what makes it so remarkable.

BFAC Coordinator Alicia Sharples said that having an interactive space such as this allowed them to forge creative connections with the community.” 

Intrigued by the idea of delving into an artist’s workings, I scale the stairs at BFAC early one Monday morning. The studio is bathed in light, the workings of Sunshine Coast watercolourist Libby Derham adorning the walls; Libby sits at the room’s centre hunched over a table, painting a mountainous scene.

Her brush moves across the page with purpose, spreading a yellowy-green colour, which she tells me is a shade she’s mixed herself. Watercolour is second nature for Libby who comes from a long line of watercolourists; four generations to be exact. 

She tells me the piece she’s painting is part of her ‘walking whilst drawing’ series, an exploration of walking in nature via sensory mapping.  

Noticing several scrolls of paper fashioned with a series of squiggly lines sitting in a box on the desk next to me, I enquire how these fit in with her work. 

“When the pandemic prevented me from working plein air from the one place I started to note down the sounds I heard in nature as I walked,” Libby says.

“When I walk I’m paying particular attention to the birds,” she says. “Then when I work on a particular piece I’ll take into consideration a bird’s colours and sound. I use masking fluid to lay their sound down first as an auditory line then I’ll explore composition through colour, expanding on the bird’s vocabulary further.” 

These auditory lines were documented while exploring five diverse walks on the Sunshine Coast, namely in the Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Gardens; Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve; Maroochy Wetlands; Peregian/Coolum section of Noosa National Park; and Mt. Tibrogargan Circuit. 

Browsing her works hanging in the studio I notice the bird song embedded in each piece. Just having that background story direct from the artist, the extra depth, instils the personality to each piece. It exposes the layers of her work, the why, and process of how the series came to fruition. It is incredibly impactful. 

This is the power of an open art studio concept. It helps unfold an artist’s vision and provides context around the elements represented in their work. 

“The beauty of our Kaya Sulc Studio is our visitors being privy to the background of what an artist is doing, hearing where their inspiration comes from, what techniques have gone into creating a body of work, their history and what has influenced them in their work,” explains Alicia. “You just don’t get that depth and insight from simply viewing an exhibition. 

“Our residency studio provides a beautiful opportunity for an artist to share so much more of themselves with the public.”  

BFAC’s Kaya Sulc Studio regularly welcomes artists to the space with a diverse range of creatives of all disciplines making the studio their own throughout the year. 

“An artist is generally in residence for a few weeks; while they’re there they’ll showcase their work, typically engaging in a project or exploring an idea,” Alicia says.

With the studio booked until November there’s plenty of artist interaction available to interested BFAC visitors and lots to explore in this stunning and historic building including three gallery spaces; the Artisan Store with handmade creations; workshops and the Pottery Studio, which is another story in itself!

For more information or to apply to become an Artist-in-Residence, visit

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