The beachside city built on a myth reveals new scene
For many years, the trend on the Gold Coast has been to build up.
Now, it seems, the city is looking inward.
The shift in the art and cultural landscape along the Coast is just the latest in a long history of continual change and inner reflection.
In a few years, everyone may be too busy and specialised for this type of social leisure that the Gold Coast is so famous for, but part of what gives a scene energy is that enough people are creating art together.
Dust Temple, which rubs shoulders with industrial workshops, sits squat between the beauty of Currumbin Alley and the magic of its valley.
It takes the shape of an ordinary cafe front, but in fact it functions as a studio, store, community centre, workshop, art gallery and event space.
Dust Temple's Isla Wilson believes the arts have the power to inspire, challenge, bring wonder into people's lives and ultimately connect people to one other and the city where they live.
"We're providing a space for artists," she says.
"We wouldn't have thrived if there wasn't a need for it."
According to Isla, a thriving arts ecosystem requires talent and collaboration, as well as investment and community support.
Recently, Dust Temple hosted an Empty Bowls event, where they collaborated with some of the region's top chefs and artists to fight hunger and homelessness on the streets of the Gold Coast. Potters created and donated bowls, then served a simple meal donated by a local restaurant. In exchange for the meal and hand-crafted bowl, guests donated to support local hunger-fighting organisations.
In charting the journey of arts in the Gold Coast and supporting its growth, Dust Temple hopes to contribute to a stronger future for the city's great art and artists.
When you live in a city that has so long been defined by something else - tourism, night-life and golden beaches - you tend to stick together, to support each other.
Burleigh Brewing Company chief executive Peta Fielding says there is an underbelly of culture, creativity and artists up and down the Gold Coast just waiting to erupt into the well-deserved spotlight.
"They have never had a place to showcase or cultivate that," she said. "But in recent times that's changed here on the Gold Coast."
Peta takes every opportunity to showcase the arts and is a proud Bleach Festival board member.
Bleach shines the spotlight on renowned Australian and international artists, and sparks conversation between audiences of all demographics through a range of events, while using the Gold Coast as its backdrop.
Now in its seventh year and wrapping up this weekend, the festival aims to deliver exceptional arts and cultural experiences to inspire both locals and visitors alike.
It's not just the arts that are being taken seriously, either. If you need confirmation the Gold Coast dining scene has come of age, look no further than Burleigh Pavilion.
With the added wow factor of a spectacular location, Burleigh Pavilion surpasses the holy dining trinity of good food, great ambience and amazing service.
Burleigh Headland is already home to famous foodie haunts such as Fish House and Rick Shores.
Add Burleigh Pavilion, with its sublime coastal vistas and two eateries - full service dining in The Tropic or the more casual Terrace - and you have the ultimate destination for all food lovers.
If an ice-cold coastal ale is more your vibe, Balter Brewery is the real deal.
When Australian surfing stalwarts Mick Fanning, Bede Durbidge, Josh Kerr and Joel Parkinson put their heads together to create a brewery, they had to prove they were the right men for the job. Three years and more than 20 accolades later, Balter Brewery is considered not just a pillar of the craft beer market, but a destination for great beer, great food and live music.
But while the burgeoning arts and culture scene is rearing its beautiful head across the region, there is still a sense of smallness and camaraderie to it.
There is a fire kindling, but it remains incredibly fragile. The more you try to define the Gold Coast, the more you realise it is a city still trying to define itself.
In this case, it's also a futile task - there isn't one art and culture world, there are many. If there is one true statement about the Gold Coast, it's this: it is a city built on a myth. The reality is very different from its reputation.
The writer was a guest of Destination Gold Coast.