Hartley, NSW: Aboriginal art gallery 40,000 years in the making
By Ellen Hill for Hartley Historic Site Photos: David Hill
The only dedicated indigenous art gallery in the NSW Central West showcases the evolution of art from the ancient culture to convict Australia and then to modern Aboriginal talent.
The Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery was opened by then NSW Governor Professor Dame Marie Bashir AC CVO in June 2013 at Hartley Historic Site east of Lithgow.
A partnership between Arts OutWest, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the OEH Heritage Division, the gallery features work by Aboriginal painters, weavers, designers, jewellers and photographers.
Hartley Historic Site manager Steve Ring said the gallery aimed to forge new relationships with the Aboriginal community of the region including the Wiradjuri people without being a strictly tribal gallery.
“Any person living in the NSW Central West who identifies as Aboriginal and is recognised by the Aboriginal community as such, may exhibit work in the gallery.
“The idea of the gallery is to give Aboriginal artists the opportunity to grow into commercial artists: we deal with them on a commercial basis like any other commercial art gallery.
“It also provides us with a commercial link with the indigenous history of Hartley and the Aboriginal people who still live in this area.’’
Visitors to Hartley Historic Site can snap up affordable artworks from $3 bookmarks in Aboriginal colours; leather, bead and seed bracelets, hair wraps and leather cuffs; to artworks, paintings and photographs priced up to $650 by artists such as Scott McMillan, Peter Shillingsworth, Jaycent Davis, Tamara Leggett, Claudette Elliott, Tirikee, Tony Lonsdale and Nicole Trudgett.
The gallery is located in the old Farmers Inn building at Hartley Historic Site, one of the best examples of colonial Australia with 17 buildings of historic significance from the 1837 Greek Revival courthouse to Corneys Garage built in 1945 of timber and iron.
The village was declared an historic site under the management of NPWS in 1972.
“Visitors can actually experience the evolution of art at the site from the crude convict scratchings in the cells in the old court house to the quality artworks exhibited in the Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery, which we like to say were 40,000 years in the making,’’ Mr Ring said.
One artwork has been part of the building for at least 120 years before the art gallery standard LED lighting and hanging wires were installed. Before the inn closed in 1895, an itinerant traveller painted a picture of a cockatoo on a wall of the inn in return for a free feed.
In fact, art lovers can immerse themselves in art at the popular heritage attraction with a stroll along the Kew-Y-Ahn Bell Rock Heritage Trail and Talisman Gallery showcasing the metal art of Ron Fitzpatrick in the old woolshed behind Farmers Inn.
Arts OutWest will curate the ongoing exhibitions while NPWS manages Hartley Historic Site including the Farmers Inn building. The project forms part of Arts OutWest’s ongoing Aboriginal Arts Development program.
Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery in the old Farmers Inn, Hartley Historic Site, Old Bathurst Rd (just off Great Western Hwy), Hartley, is open from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 4.20pm Tuesday to Sunday. Cost: Free. Details: (02) 6355 2117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr Ring also encouraged visitors to explore the wider region.
“If you’re coming from Sydney, travel up the Great Western Highway and see the Blue Mountains, spend the day with us at Back to Hartley, then drive into Lithgow and head home via the Bells Line of Road through the Hawkesbury to experience the World Heritage Area from a very different perspective.’’
Visitors can choose from a range of accommodation and dining options in the Lithgow area.
Go to lithgowtourism.com for more information.