Photographer Tom Mason is setting up a new studio and gallery, Naked Arts Gallery and Studio, at the church on the corner of Roderick and East streets, Ipswich.
Photographer Tom Mason is setting up a new studio and gallery, Naked Arts Gallery and Studio, at the church on the corner of Roderick and East streets, Ipswich. Sarah Harvey

New life for church

ONCE it was the home to holy worshippers, but the Congregational Church in Ipswich's city centre is now the hub of a visionary arts and antiques precinct.

It is the brainchild of John and Heather Mildwaters, who purchased the church and hall at the corner of Roderick and East streets as a superannuation investment two years ago with long-term plans.

The couple transformed the buildings into four retail areas, hoping to attract antique dealers and artists to rent the space.

The precinct's newest addition is to be launched on November 7, with the official opening of Naked Arts Gallery and Studio, managed by Booval residents Tom and Lyn Mason.

The Mildwaters opened the Antiques Centre in the church hall 12 months ago and were on the lookout for a suitable tenant.

That was until Mr Mason, a keen photographer, stopped for a coffee in the Antiques Centre and spotted an ad for the church's availability on a noticeboard.

After a chat with Mr Mildwaters, it seemed the Mason's two-year search for the perfect gallery location might be drawing to a close.

Upon walking inside the 55-year-old church, Mr Mason set his eyes on its high ceilings and knew he had found the right place.

"I fell in love with it," he said.

"It had a lovely atmosphere, but also a unique design for a church. It was very different, very modern for its day."

Mr Mildwaters said the church had been vacant for a year and felt the Mason's were the perfect fit.

"I think there will be a great synergy between the two businesses. The type of people who come for Tom's gallery would be interested in antiques."

Seeing their visions for an antiques and arts precinct materialise was satisfying for Mr Mildwaters. "Especially to get exactly what we had been waiting for. We had other inquiries but they didn't feel right."

He wished Mr Mason all the best in his venture and hoped the Ipswich community would support it.

Mr Mason has agreed to a long-term lease of the church.



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