Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery Celebrates Twenty Years

Acting Gallery Coordinator Lisa Knowlson joins in the 20th birthday celebrations. Photo: Fire & Fly Media.


COFFS Harbour Regional Gallery supporters came out in force to celebrate the start of the gallery twenty years ago in a tiny office space.

Programs Facilitator Toni Southwell was there when it started in 2001 having just returned from Sydney with an arts degree and became youth representative for the gallery.

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“I was a youth representative on the working party when the council sought input from artists, art groups, consultants and people across the community,” Toni says.

As the Gallery opened with one paid position only for a Gallery Director, Toni eventually moved away to secure work but is delighted now to have come full circle back to the gallery as Programs Facilitator.

She said, “A regional gallery bridges the gap for local artists who often struggle to find somewhere to exhibit.

“Over the years many local artists have had their work shown here and shared their stories or creative practice,” added Ms Southwell.

Acting Gallery Coordinator Lisa Knowlson reflected on the Gallery’s beginnings.

“Twenty years ago a group of passionate people working with the support of the council helped establish the regional gallery, and since the beginning it’s staged exciting exhibitions and creative events that bring our community together.”

There to support the gallery over the years with events and fundraising, has been volunteer group, the Friends of Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery.

“It has become a special place for us all to connect with culture,” said Friends’ President Heather McKinnon.

“One of the most important achievements of the gallery over the years has been building the relationship with our Gumbaynggirr community.

“We’re proud to have played a part in the gallery’s progression, including sponsoring STILL and expanding the collection of still life art.”

The Friends have contributed works ranging from Archibald-winner Ben Quilty to convict artist William Beulow Gould c.1840, and this year will fund seven acquisitions from STILL including a work by Bidjara artist Michael Cook.

The gallery’s signature art prize since 2017, STILL: National Still Life Award has built on the previous success of EMSLA, first established in 2007.

The Gallery will next year end up in its new home the Yarrila Arts & Museum (YAM), opening late 2022.

Yarrila is the local Gumbaynggirr word for illuminate, brighten or illustrate.

Ms Southwell said she is looking forward to the larger, purpose-built gallery at YAM.

One of the first exhibitions in 2001 was Our Place: Images of Coffs Harbour & Regions, which brought together works depicting the region by local artists and well-known names like Dunghutti artist, Robert Campbell Jnr.

Two decades later, works by Gumbaynggirr artists will open YAM in a potential re-interpretation of this concept titled, Yaam Gumbaynggirr Jagun, here is Gumbaynggirr country.

Revisit 20 years of exhibitions and the collection of Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, on Coffs Collections:


By Sandra MOON


A turn-out for turning twenty at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery. Photo: And the Trees Photography.

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