History

Ararat Gallery was established at a public meeting called by the Mayor of the City of Ararat, Councillor G Marx in March, 1968.  At this meeting a small executive and a committee of six were elected.  Its objectives were to foster appreciation of the visual arts by the presentation of varied and stimulating exhibitions.  Ararat Shire Council made available the Old Municipal Offices in the Ararat Town Hall for use as a gallery.  An initial establishment grant of $1000 was provided by the Victorian Government, which the gallery received annually until 1974, when an increased grant of $5700 was received.  In 1971, a second room, the Old Council Chambers, was made available, thus doubling the gallery's exhibition space.

Pamela Gullifer AM was appointed the gallery's first full time director in 1973.  In 1974 the gallery became the sixteenth member of the Regional Galleries Association of Victoria.  The gallery's fibre art specialisation was established in the mid 1970s under Mrs Gullifer's direction  Mrs Gullifer honed in on Australia’s growing craft movement, which provided rich opportunities for a new gallery seeking to establish a collection on a small budget.  Purchases of glass and ceramics followed; however, the region’s historical association with fine merino wool production ultimately secured the gallery’s fibre art specialisation. 

Ararat's fibre art specialisation needs to be considered in relation to the craft movement at the time.  In 1972 the Australian Government established the Craft Inquiry, which led to the establishment of the Craft Board of the Australia Council for the Arts in 1973. Federal and State government support followed, providing a funding injection and a validation of craft and, by association, Ararat's decision to align itself with the fibre art movement.

In 1978 Council received a $1M grant from the Victorian Government to restore and rebrand the Ararat Town Hall as the Ararat Arts Activity Centre.  This project involved the restoration of the building's exterior and a modified interior incorporating the gallery, performing arts centre and a new arts and crafts workshop.  Through this project the gallery grew to its current size and became a co-tenant in the building with the newly established Ararat Performing Arts Centre.  The Ararat Arts Activity Centre was opened on Thursday 26 April 1979 with a welcome by Ararat Mayor Cr W C Henning, opening remarks by the Hon T Austin, Minister of Public Works, and closing remarks by Eric Westbrook, Director, Ministry for the Arts.  Graeme Gunn received the Victorian Architecture Medal in 1980 for his work on the project.

In the 1980s the gallery expanded its fibre art focus, curating four biennial exhibitions which toured to other public galleries.  The first four biennials (1981, 1983, 1985, 1987) were open only to textile miniatures, establishing in Australia a competition/forum model which was well established in Europe.   The miniature biennials attracted artists from Australia and overseas, resulting in many acquisitions.   The last biennial in 1989 moved away from miniatures and focussing instead on critically engaged fibre art practice.  This exhibition, curated by gallery director David Salter, toured nationally and was accompanied by a catalogue with essays by several writers.

The 1980s was a period of prolific collecting and many of Australia's leading fibre artists from this decade are represented in the permanent collection.  This was a time of optimism in the craft community with increased professionalism, experimentation and boundless creativity for fibre artists, fuelled by newly established tertiary courses and supportive networks.   

By comparison, the 1990s was a time when contemporary artists began experimenting more broadly with materials and identifying less with movements, mediums and definitions.  Furthermore, career pathways in the craft become less fruitful and notions of a fibre art identity within the craft movement lost currency.  The artworks collected during this period document of the evolving status of craft and the critical demands on artists working with textiles and fibre to strengthen the conceptual underpinning of their work.  Since the 1990s  the gallery's  permanent collection has continued to grow with prudent acquisitions that reflect an era of uncertainty yet possibility for fibre-based art.  The gallery's definition of fibre art broadened during this time and contemporary artists including Juan Davilia, Richard Goodwin and Kathy Temin were acquired for the collection.

Ararat Gallery Inc. was liquidated in 2005, and the gallery became a facility of Ararat Rural City Council and was renamed Ararat Regional Art Gallery.  The position of gallery director was reinstated in mid 2007 and the gallery has operated in an improved situation since that time, enhancing its relationship with Arts Victoria and, as a facility of by Ararat Rural City Council, benefitting from more certainty around funding, resources and expertise. 

As a Council facility the gallery has consolidated its fibre art specialisation through a range of programming initiatives and a reinvigoration of the permanent collection. Today the collection is a rare and unique resource valued at around $1.2M.  Recent acquisitions of  work by Starlie Geikie, Newell Harry, Kate Just, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Nalda Searles and Jenny Watson reveal the rich diversity of current fibre-focussed contemporary practice and foreshadow opportunities for the collection's development. 

The gallery has an almost singular dedication to curating exhibitions which explore Australia's recent historical fibre art history, including through the exhibitions 'About Time: Australian Studio Tapestry 1975-2005' (touring to five galleries, 2010-2012)), 'Douglas Fuchs - Floating Forest: 30th anniversary exhibition' (2012) and 'Making Time: The Art of John Corbett 1974-2013 (2013), and presenting solo exhibitions by senior Australian fibre artists.

While the gallery's fibre specialisation is an important part of its story, it has always and will continue to present an annual program which serves the Ararat community through providing access to a wide range of visual arts and cultural experiences.

Image: l to r, Sir Rupert Hamer AC, KCMG, ED (Premier of Victoria, 1972-1981), Pamela Gullifer AM (Ararat Gallery Director, 1973-1977) and Gary Lewis, then President of Ararat Gallery Inc. at the opening of the 'Woolworks' exhibition on 31 October 1975.

 

Gallery Directors

1973 - 1977, Pamela Gullifer AM

1977 - 1979, Joe Devilee

1979 - 1985, Pamela Luhrs

1985 - 1987, David Salter 

1987 - 1988, Jeffrey Taylor

1988 - 1990, David Salter

1990 - 1998, Graeme Bird

1998 - 2000, Sarah Schmidt

2000 - 2003, Penelope Hillam

2003,  Liz Oley

2007 - current, Anthony Camm

 

Ararat Gallery Inc. Presidents

Presidents Past Committee of Management

2004-2003, Mr Don Calvert OAM

2000-2003, Mr Kevin Free

1999, Ms L Button

1998-1999, Mr R Thompson

1998 5/12, Mrs C Smith

1998- 1995, Mr Jarno Coone

1993-1995, Mr Robert Thompson

1988- 1993, Ms J Wilson

1987- 1988, Dr M Rankin

1984-1987, Dr R de Crespigny

1982-1984, Mr R Francis

1980-1982, Cr. J Boyles

1977-1980, Mr I Kirkham

1977, Dr J Wellington

1976, Mr Rudi Nyhof

1975-1976, Mr Gary Lewis

1974-1975, Mr Leo King

1971-1974, Dr P de Crespigney

1971, Mr J Pitt 

1968-1970, Mr Gary Lewis