Technical Art School building, Federation University Complex, Lydiard Street

An exhibition at the Post Office Gallery celebrated the centenary of continuous Art Education at Ballarat. It highlighted the work of many art lecturers over the past 100 years. These educators who have shared their skills and knowledge were also well respected artists in their own right. Some filled important and influential positions. Among them were Art Inspectors with the Victorian Education Department and art reviewers who wrote for various newspapers.  

Neville Bunning was part of this illustrious group. During his time at Ballarat Neville formed the Ballarat Artist’s Society, a group that sponsored art and invited modernist artists to visit Ballarat to speak to students and the public. He also wrote a weekly art column in The Courier, where his insightful comments made readers aware of significant trends in Art.

Although 2007 is being celebrated as the centennial year, three art schools functioned in Ballarat before that time. In 1890 the demise of the Technological Commission resulted in Technical Schools coming under the direction of the Minister of Education. He published new art school regulations designed to improve standards. By 1895 the Education Department intimated that only one Ballarat Art School would be funded after 1907. A merger between what was known as the East and the West Schools was proposed, but after an impasse the Minister of Education asked The Ballarat School of Mines to take charge of the factions.

Herbert Henry Smith was the first Principal appointed to the Ballarat School of Mines Technical Art School.  At that time the school was not held on Ballarat School of Mines ground. A custom built school, still visible in Lydiard Street, was opened in 1915.

During the height of Ballarat’s fame as a centre for art education many contracts were undertaken by staff and students. These included numerous local stained glass windows by Amalie Field, War Honour Boards, programme designs, and Thomas Trengrove’s carvings for the Villers-Breteneux School in France, a school funded by the school children of Victoria to honour Australians killed on the battlefields of the Somme.

Many of the lecturer artists who have taught at Ballarat were well awarded for the work, the most recent being Betty Collier who received the 2006 Stone Carving Award for her work ‘Beyond the Bend’ by the Association of Sculptors of Victoria. This work was on display at the exhibition. 

From 1907 through to 2007 art educators have worked at the Ballarat School of Mines site, Ballarat Teachers’ College, the Ballarat Airport, Mt Helen (From 1980 – under the institution names SCVB, BIAE, BCAE, BUC and UB), and in 2002 at the new University of Ballarat Camp Street Campus, known as the Arts Academy. 

Through the exhibition the development of art and art education over 100 years could be seen. It comprised the work of artists who have collectively taught thousands of students, many of whom made a name for themselves in either art or education fields. The range, breadth and quality of work displayed were proof of the high standard of our Ballarat art educators and their ability to act as role models through the production of works of quality. 

The Exhibition ‘Artistic Insights’ was open Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 3pm until Saturday 21 July at the University of Ballarat Post Office Gallery, at the corner of Sturt and Lydiard Streets.

Photograph (right) Art School at School of Mines, Federation University Historical Collecti0n

Art Class at the School of Mines, Federation University Historical Collection