The fascinating story of the establishment and development of the Art Gallery of Ballarat has now been told in a new book by noted Ballarat historian Dr Anne Beggs-Sunter. The new book, Not for self but for all: A history of the Art Gallery of Ballarat Association is to be formally launched by former Gallery Director Margaret Rich this Sunday afternoon at 2pm.
The history was commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ballarat Association, the community organisation which founded the Gallery in 1884 and still exists as a support organisation for the Gallery. The book is intended to celebrate the human story of the Gallery by paying tribute to the many people who have supported it and worked to ensure its development and growth over the years.
The title of the book, Not for self but for all, comes from an early crest of the Gallery devised by James Powell, the Association’s first secretary, who wrote an important account of the establishment of the Gallery in 1896.
Association President Amanda McGraw said that the Gallery Association has been a constant and supportive presence in the life and development of the Gallery.
“The Association was the owner of the Gallery until 1978, which explains why Association members feel so passionate about its history and take such a keen interest in its activities and aspirations.
“Writing a complex story like that of the Gallery, where there are often competing narratives or versions of events, can be a very challenging task and we have been fortunate that notable historian Anne Beggs-Sunter has been so closely involved with the Gallery for such a long time, and that she has been prepared to take on the task of telling the definitive story of the Association.
“Anne was the secretary of the Association for many, many years (23) and she was making and documenting history by being such an active member.
“This is a great book and representation of our history but the one thing that strikes me is that at that time, the beginnings of the Association, we had committed, passionate people, community oriented people and we still have many, many people involved in the Association who have that same spirit.”
Gallery Director Louise Tegart said that the Art Gallery of Ballarat is one of the country’s great galleries.
“To my mind it is one of the most welcoming and engaging of Australia’s regional galleries, and a huge part of what makes it so is the strength and passion of the Gallery Association.
“The Gallery’s early motto ‘Not for self but for all’ is an important key to the Gallery’s success through its long history, and it is an ethos that we need to continue to work to in the future, ensuring that the Gallery remains open to the widest range of audiences possible and engages with visitors in new ways.
“The gallery has a fantastic collection in an amazing building but it’s really the people that are associated with the gallery that make it the outstanding place that it is today. The spirit in which the gallery was set up in is still relevant today, maybe more relevant, which was about a group of local Ballarat people who came together, I suppose, to provide art for the people of Ballarat to lift them out of their everyday lives and that’s something that we are still doing today.”
Dr Beggs-Sunter said that she appreciated the opportunity entrusted to her by the Association to tell the story of the Gallery and its people.
“It was a labour of love to write this history of one of Australia’s oldest provincial galleries, the wonderful gift of pioneer James Oddie to his adopted city.
“Since 1884 there have been so many wonderful people who have nurtured the Gallery and its collection, and I hope that my account celebrates the importance of community.”
Dr Beggs-Sunter said that her work was greatly assisted by the extensive records which have been kept since the establishment of the Gallery.
“I stand in debt to the first Secretary of the Gallery, James Powell, who left a meticulous paper trail on the establishment of the institution, which has provided a strong basis on which the Gallery has maintained the vital records of its operations.
“When I first came to Ballarat, in 1974, I immediately got involved with the art gallery and it was the portrait of James Oddie that really inspired me to find out more about him and then I became a member of the Council of the Art Gallery Association.”
Dr Beggs-Sunter added that the book took around 18 months from when the Association suggested to her that they would like to have the history documented to the completion but as a professional historian Dr Beggs-Sunter has been collecting information over many years.
The book is on sale at the Gallery Shop with a retail price of $36, with a discounted price for Members of the Association of $30. The book can also be purchased online from the Gallery website.