Around 150 notable people from the Illawarra art scene packed Wollongong Art Gallery to celebrate 40 years of the organisation’s contribution to Illawarra culture on Saturday.
The party was less about formalities and more about celebrating the exhibitions currently on show in the gallery, which have brought hundreds of the gallery’s collection out into the public.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery and gallery director John Monteleone both gave short speeches of welcome and thanks.
While artist, curator and long-time supporter of the gallery Uncle Vic Chapman gave the Welcome to Country and thanked the late Bob Sredersas for gifting his art collection to the City of Wollongong in 1976, forming the founding pillars of the gallery.
Mr Monteleone has been director since 2009 and told the Illawarra Mercury he was proud of many achievements over the past decade.
These included the name change from “City Gallery” to be more inclusive of all of the community, various exhibitions and establishing an art acquisition fund.
“The collection is a community asset and belongs to all of the community, and it’s also a cultural asset,” he said. “The collection is something that leaves a legacy for future generations.”
Exhibitions that have made the director most proud in recent years have been Steel City Sound covering a 50 year history of live music in Wollongong; Green Cathedral which looked at surfing culture; plus various exhibitions highlighting the “migrant experience”.
“We’ve put together a number of exhibitions ... which tell community stories, or look look at our community history but do it through art and often through contemporary art,” Mr Monteleone said.
“We’re really interested in developing some of those stories which are about us, and how can art help to tell that story because Art is a bit of a universal language.”
The celebration coincided with the opening of the Jewels in the Crown exhibition showcasing the depth and breadth of the gallery's collection from Eugene von Guerard's detailed views of the Illawarra, Rover Thomas' stunning Ord River, John Brack's delicate peonies and works from the crème de la crème of Australian art.