Artworks have been part of what is now the University of Wollongong campus since the 1960s and 70s. In 1964, a mural – still extant – was commissioned from Emanuel Raft for the exterior of the Wollongong Teachers College later to become part of the university main campus. Other early acquisitions included Ivan Englund’s painting 'Port Kembla Landscape' (1962), Gino Sanguineti’s sculpture 'Untitled' (1975) and May Barrie’s stone sculpture 'Viva Solaris' (1976-77). The visual arts’ presence on campus gained focus in 1983, when the School of Creative Arts was formed as part of the University. An ordered collecting of staff and student work gradually developed and in 1985, The University of Wollongong Art Collection was formalised. Since that time and through donations, purchases and special projects, the Collection has continued to expand and evolve. Changing curatorial leadership, creative practices, artistic interests, social issues and the history of the university and its wider community are, to some extent reflected by the works in the art collection with collecting priorities developing and changing the collection over time.
The UOW Art Collection includes artworks of local, regional and national significance. The history of the Illawarra is captured through works which reflect the industrial and social history of the region, such as Roy Dalgarno’s ink and wash drawings of foundry workers as well as the significant collection of prints and posters by the innovative screen-print collective, Redback Graphix. A recent major acquisition is ‘Illawarra Pastoral’ painted by Lloyd Rees in 1957, this work captures the look and feel of the rural landscape at the foothills of the escarpment, a major geological feature of the region.
The Collection also records, to some extent, the history of the University with artists such as Bert Flugelman, who led the sculpture studio for many years represented along with ceramicist, Alan Peascod, textile artists, Diana Wood Conroy and Liz Jeneid, photo-media artists such as Jacky Redgate and Derek Kreckler, print artists, painters and artists working across a range of mediums including Penny Harris, Brogan Bunt, Jo Law, Madeline Kelly, Jelle van den Berg, Lucas Ihlein, Garry Jones, Kim Williams, Anita Larkin and Didier Balez.
Successive vice-chancellors have recognised the value of the Art Collection and supported its development; today it encompasses close to 5000 artworks. The Art Collection is committed to making art an integral part of the campus life. Works are on display throughout the main campus in Wollongong as well as at the nearby Innovation Campus and the regional campus network which covers sites in Nowra, Batemans Bay, Bega, Moss Vale, Loftus and Sydney CBD. This dispersed, open access to the Art Collection offers students, staff and visitors the opportunity to interact with, enjoy and appreciate artwork in their social, learning and working environments. The newly opened UOW Gallery in the Jillian Broadbent building on the main campus (B29) has expanded these opportunities for community engagement with art by offering a programme of curated exhibitions.
Donors have been extraordinarily generous, with major personal collections enriching our holdings of European and Australian works on paper, twentieth century painting and contemporary art and craft.
The UOW Art Collection is currently aiming to digitise many of these works and make them available online.