“There are some really tough, difficult and distressing decisions to be made … about programs, about staffing – even trying to search for a reliable, affordable range of hand sanitisers.”

Ms Virgo said the access studio was a small aspect of the Australian Print Workshop’s operations and “not why we’re funded”.

But artists said the space was the heart of the organisation.

Emerging printmaker Sorcha Mackenzie said the studio had been an essential stepping stone for her career after university, allowing her to continue making works and secure residencies overseas. It was hard for young artists to set up their own studios as printmaking required chemicals and costly equipment, she said.

Anne Virgo at the Australian Print Workshop in 2010.

Anne Virgo at the Australian Print Workshop in 2010.Credit:Rodger Cummins

“Without the access studio all [APW] becomes is a high-end gallery for already successful printmakers,” Ms Mackenzie said. “That community space is the heart of it.”

The Australian Print Workshop receives some state and federal government funding, but most of its income is from gallery sales and such services as workshops and hosting school groups. It also collaborates with high-profile artists such as Patricia Piccinini, Shaun Gladwell and Benjamin Armstrong.

Artist Graham Fransella, a former Australian Print Workshop board member, said public access workshops were “very hard to run on any real economic basis”.

“You can’t actually charge the sort of money it costs [to run] to let someone use it – that’s one of the problems,” he said.

“But [APW] just have to be careful that they don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s a bit like a football club saying, ‘We can’t really afford to run our junior team’ – because in years to come there won’t be a senior team.

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