Song Ling © My Name is Fartunate- self portrait  Finalist 2011 Archibald Prize.

The Archibald at Tarrawarra Museum of Art has been a coup for the whole of the Yarra Valley.  It’s had spinoffs for the Yarra Valley arts community and for tourism. Clever businesses have made the most of it.  None more so than Mt Rael Retreat.  Perched up on a hill very close to TWMA it has a magnificent 180 degree view over the Yarra Valley. Its close proximity makes it an ideal place for visitors to stay over before a tour of the Archibald.

So Mt Rael has enlisted the help of eleven of the Archibald finalists to enrich the traveler’s experience.  Art lovers can book in for a package which includes a three course dinner with the artist, a nights accomodation, breakfast the following morning before a guided tour of the Archibald with the artist.  Brilliant!

Last night I was lucky enough to attend one of these dinners with the artist Song Ling. The conversations were robust. The food showcasing Yarra Valley produce (ravioli made with cheese from the Yarra Valley Dairy) was matched with Yarra Valley wines.  Food, wine, art and that spectacular view… all of the best things in life available in one gorgeous place. Incidentally, Song Ling was a very charming dinner companion who, unlike the ‘Fartunate’ man, appears to be a person with a deep and abiding soul. I feel very privileged to have met him in such convivial circumstances and get to know him just a little.

Artists involved in this program have included, Ken Done, Barbara Tyson, Zhong Chen. It’s not too late to enjoy this experience yourself. There are two more dinners organized before the Archibald closes at the end of July.  The artists attending are Sonia Kretschmar on Friday 29th July and Nicholas Harding on Saturday 30th July. For more details go to the Mt Rael website.

It’s been confirmed that the Archibald will come to TWMA next year.  Keep an eye on Mt Rael’s website early next year so that you dont miss out on any similar offerings in 2012.

My sincerest thanks to  the owners of Mt Rael, John Knoll and Sean Lee for making my involvement possible. I’d have to be the luckiest little blogger I know!