The Tamworth Regional Gallery will celebrate its centenary on June 1st … That’s one hundred years of sharing art with the New England and wider community!
As the second oldest regional art gallery in New South Wales, Tamworth Regional Gallery has been at the forefront of arts education for a long time, but the staff and volunteers constantly embrace new technology. Gallery Director Bridget Guthrie fills us in about what’s planned to mark the centenary of this wonderful institution …
Hi Bridget. What’s a little of the history behind the Tamworth Regional Gallery?
On 1st June 2019, the gallery will be 100 years old! The gallery came about through our founder, John Salvana. He was an amazing individual, because he had a vision that art should be accessible in the country. He deliberately included works for the gallery that were also an educational tool – so there are unfinished works in the collection, which can be used to train students and teach them how to create works of art.
John’s view was: “This collection of small pictures, studies, sketches etc. in the various media – oils, water colours, pastel, charcoal, pencil, crayon, pen and ink – which this catalogue represents and explains, has been placed here in Tamworth for all time for your benefit, your guidance, your instruction.”
The current building where the gallery is located was built in 2004. It’s a purpose-built building invested in by our Council and the community to house our amazing collection and to promote the arts.
What’s your background with the gallery?
In June, I will have been with the gallery for four years. The role involves working as a team with our gallery staff to care for and promote our collection, and to generate public programmes for all of our audiences. We believe the arts are for everyone; that’s our value and what we aim to achieve.
What activities are planned to commemorate the gallery’s centenary?
We have a wonderful exhibition, The View from 1919, that we’ve been working very hard on; it represents 100 years of the Tamworth Regional Gallery’s collection. The exhibition explores the view form the year 1919 in the art world in Australia; it examines the different styles, themes, media and diversity of art making in this period.
If you look at the different styles around 1919, it’s fascinating. There are some amazing landscapes that John Salvana and his contemporaries generated; there’s a very painterly feel to them, and they’ve often been completed en plein air.
But, there was also a beautiful Art Nouveau movement that was happening at the time, and artists like Sydney Long and Elioth Gruner had this influence in their work.
And yet another chapter were the black and white illustrations. With the invention of print making – and newspapers were very strong in this era – there were a lot of black and white print making works that have been used in a wide diversity of forms … in books, on paper.
The last element – which is just so interesting – is that the Modernist movement began to evolve after World War I. After the war ended, there was a wonderful freshness in the art world – particularly with women! Women generated some amazing works during this period, with print makers such as Margaret Preston and Thea Proctor … And, Thea was actually born in Armidale.
Grace Crowley, who was also a local and born in Barraba, was an artist who really worked with that Modernist feel, and we’ve been able to secure some of her works from the Art Gallery of New South Wales for this particular exhibition.
How long will the exhibition be on display?
It will run from Saturday 1st June, the 100-year anniversary date, and it will close on Sunday, 28th July. The exhibition opening is on Friday 31st May at 6pm.
How many staff/volunteers are currently involved with the gallery?
We have approximately five – six staff, including a couple of casual staff members, and around 60 volunteers. We also have the wonderful Friends of the Gallery, who do such an amazing job and support us constantly. The Friends are such an integral part of what we do – they’re here for every exhibition opening! We’re indebted to the support of all of our volunteers.
What are some of the things about the gallery you’re most proud of?
I’m very proud that we’re the second oldest regional gallery in New South Wales; this shows the progressiveness of our region from a very early time period.
I’m also very proud of the strengths of our collection. We have a very strong landscape collection, but we also have a superb textile collection. We’re quite renowned for the Tamworth Textile Triennial; we generate a textile exhibition every three years, that travels nationally.
What are some upcoming projects in the gallery you’re particularly excited about?
We’re going to be launching a series of public programmes to coincide with the 100-year anniversary, and the highlight for me is TRANSMIT.
With funding from the State Government’s Regional Cultural Fund, we’ve been able to install large-scale portable and permanent digital screen/s, software and equipment. TRANSMIT will support wide community access to live events that take place at state galleries or universities and provide education programmes for all ages and abilities, including artists’ talks and virtual tours. The digital screens will be located both inside the Tamworth Regional Gallery and externally, to expand public reach in regional Australia. TRANSMIT is about the transmission of education, knowledge and ideas through digital technology.
This leads us to work on other ways that will keep the gallery progressive in 2019 as well! We have a full-time education officer; education is a huge part of what we do at the gallery, so the continual access to information we can provide to the community is really important.
We’re doing a “virtual tour” with the National Portrait Gallery as a part of our centenary celebrations, because they’re loaning some artworks to us as well.
Where can readers find out more information about the gallery and upcoming events?
Visit the website: www.tamworthregionalgallery.com.au
There’s so much information there! We have upcoming life drawing classes, school holiday programmes, some plein air workshops and masterclasses associated with our centenary celebrations – and particularly programmes associated with TRANSMIT and the wonderful information the community can access.
Interview: Jo Robinson.