Bankstown Art Society

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Our History (by Jim Kelly)

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Prior to Bankstown Art Society a group of like-minded local residents gathered to form what they called The Bankstown Art Group. It was little known but ran quietly from 1953 to 1957. It was very informal and no records were kept and it eventually disappeared, but not quite without trace. While it was running it met in an upper room of the old Capitol Hall. They held at least one exhibition, and in a Bankstown of the 1950s they considered themselves modern enough to have life drawing classes, the models having to be escorted from the railway station.

Then in 1958, John Santry of the Workers Education Association (WEA) ran a sixteen-week Practical Art Course in the Bankstown Congregational Church Hall on Greenfield Parade. The Church Hall was previously used as a preschool in the mid-1930s but is no longer there.

Several of the artists from the disbanded Bankstown Art Group attended these WEA classes as students. On completion of the course, some of the students wished to continue painting so, following publicity in the local news papers, a meeting was convened on the 6th August 1958 and with 16 members the Bankstown Art Society came to life. At the first meeting the following were elected: President Mr Ronald Peters, Secretary Mrs M Allen, Treasurer Mrs Vera Sheridan. Mr Jack Johnson was appointed as the first Tutor. They held their first exhibition in November 1959, again in the Congregational Church Hall. The first painting sold by Bankstown Art Society was Mudgee Landscape by artist Ronald Peters.

For many years the Society conducted weekly classes and meetings in the Scout Hall in the Appian Way. The Society gradually consolidated, holding regular exhibitions and receiving increasing support from Council. Many exhibitions were held in council establishments and open air exhibitions in commercial venues such as Bankstown Square.

An indication of the increased Council support came in 1975 when the Council acquired the vacant county council Electricity Showrooms for the princely sum of $400. The showrooms were to be used as an Arts & Crafts centre. Many other community groups were also invited to use the premises.

In these premises the society flourished. Council support continued to grow with prize money of $200 awarded for the best painting at the Annual Exhibition of 1979. The Bankstown Lions Club also donated $50 that year. By 1983 the Council donation had increased to $300 and membership exceeded 100.

In April 1985 Ald. Doug Shedden told a Council meeting that it was imperative that a new Arts & Crafts centre be centrally located in Bankstown. $105,000 was allocated in 1985 and it was resolved that a further $100,000 be added each year until 1988 to make it a bicentenary project.

The Express newspaper of August 1985 reported the first mention by a council officer of the “old swimming pool” site as a possible location for the new Arts & Crafts centre. The pool and buildings were in very poor condition and would have been too expensive to repair.

In December 1985 Council decided to go ahead with the conversion of the swimming pool. May 1988 saw the demolition of the pool buildings and the start of construction of the new centre.

On 25th February 1989 the new Arts and Craft Centre was opened by NSW Premier Nick Greiner. For the next 20 years BAS occupied 2 large rooms, studio and gallery, on the first floor of the building.

For several years Bankstown Council consulted with the community to develop plans to convert the existing Bankstown Arts & Crafts Centre into a dedicated arts facility offering performance and art development opportunities.

On 11th May 2009 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a $3.15million grant towards construction of a new Bankstown Arts Centre. Work began later in 2009 and BAS moved to a temporary location in Leonard St for the next 2 years.

Bankstown Arts Centre was officially opened by NSW Premier Kristina Keneally, the Member for Blaxland Jason Clare MP, and Bankstown Mayor Clr Tania Mihailuk on Thursday 17 February 2011.


Ronald Peters - self-portrait (1977)


Ronald Peters - cottage near Hill End


Arts & Crafts Centre


Ground breaking 2009
Daryl Melham, Tania Mihailuk, Jason Clare


BAS temporary premises in Leonard St


Opening of Bankstown Arts Centre 2011
Jason Clare, Tania Mihailuk, Kristina Keneally

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