Our History (by Jim
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
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
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
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
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.