Guest Blog by Geoff Harrison
Eighteen years ago I made the fateful decision to leave Melbourne for rural Victoria. It wasn’t a tree change, but a decision based on economics – I would be back in the city tomorrow if it were possible.
I moved to the Central Goldfields area near Maryborough (or Scary-borough as the locals referred to it on dole cheque day.) It was once a thriving textiles town – need I say more? Shortly after I arrived, the nearby Carisbrook meatworks closed, thus tossing another 100 souls out of work.
Central Goldfields Art Gallery, Maryborough (Cent. Gold. Shire Council)
Naturally, I checked out the local Central Goldfields Art Gallery and found it to be a mausoleum. But then along came Kay Parkin, the Central Goldfields Shire Council’s new art officer. She put a bomb under that gallery and I was very grateful for it. She was determined to raise the profile of the gallery and some of her initiatives brought hostility from the local ‘Sunday artists’ who (I assume) had the run of the place prior to her arrival. But Kay knew that she only had to mount one lousy exhibition, and if that was all a group of visitors from Melbourne saw then the word would soon get around.
She explained to me the hurdles she had to negotiate when running her exhibition proposals by the local shire who, after all, we're holding the purse strings. And it was thanks to Kay that I was able to participate in a number of group exhibitions at the gallery.
Kay Parkin (The Maryborough District Advertiser)
She ensured that the gallery was included in several travelling exhibitions including one featuring children’s book illustrations. The exhibition included a demonstration for local children by Ann James, a well-known children’s book illustrator. It was through this exhibition that I became aware of the remarkable Shaun Tan. Another memorable exhibition featured photography by local school children, which made it clear the challenges that faced adolescents living in a disadvantaged rural community.
I was able to volunteer at the gallery, including developing a database for the shire’s art collection. I was also able to peruse many of the exhibition proposals sent to the gallery, and it was fascinating to see the variety of styles. In some cases, the technology seemed to overwhelm the art which left me wondering how expensive some of these proposals were.
I left the area in 2009 and (I’m sorry to say) never returned – not even for a visit. I discovered recently that Kay retired at the end of 2020. Thank you, Kay.