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. 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, which had merged with the Teachers College. An ordered collecting of staff and student work gradually developed and in 1985 The University of Wollongong Art Collection was formalised, initially with Visual Arts lecturer John Eveleigh as director, followed by Guy Warren from 1992 to 2005, assisted during that time by Didier Balez and Glenn Barkley. Barkley was later curator of the Art Collection until 2008 and Amanda Lawson took over as director in 2005, with Phillippa Webb as curator from 2007 until 2015. In 2017, Karen Cass was appointed as The Collection Manager.
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 the Sydney Business School. 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 Collection has evolved through donations, acquisitions and special projects. 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 textile artists, Diana Wood Conroy and Liz Jeneid and photo-media artists such as Jacky Redgate. The specialisation in Australian Indigenous works on paper grew through university projects, print workshops and links with artists in the Northern Territory that were developed over many years. 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.
A more detailed history of the collection can be found in A Place For Art.