The Central Australian Art Society turns Fifty

Yes, we’re 50 years old!

On March 12 1963, a group of keen Alice Springs artists got together in the old High School Library (now Charles Darwin University campus) to form the Central Australian Art Society.  Little did they realise that what they created that day would be a thriving entity some 50 years on.


Opening Night of the 1975  Caltex Northern Territory Art Award held in
The Residency,  Alice Springs.

Foreground L to R: Bob Dalby (CAAS President), Sen. Bernie Kilgariff, Judy Cassab (twice winner Archibald Prize), Mark Farmer.

Not withstanding the burning down of our headquarters some years ago, CAAS has a surprisingly good set of archives that go way back to the 60’s.  Searching through these records recently made me feel rather honoured to be a part of such an organisation.  So much has been achieved over the years and the dedication and hard work of previous members is very evident.

While we might complain of a lack of funding etc these days, it didn’t stop our founders in their pursuit  to establish the Art Society.  They held their meetings wherever they could: in various halls, hotels, sheds, garages and private homes, working hard till we were established (an early home was the Art Shed located in the current Totem Theatre shed next to ANZAC Oval).

Our first Art Award was held in 1968 (sponsored as the Caltex Art Award) at the Alice Springs Showground Hall, Traeger Park. This name was changed to the NT Art Award in 1979 after Caltex pulled out of the Northern Territory. There was no Award held in 1987 due to lack of sponsorship. The NT Art Award continued on until 2003. In 1989 the accumulated acquisitions from the NT Art Awards were donated to the Alice Springs Town Council to form the ASTC Art Collection, now housed at Araluen. Acquisitions were donated to this collection as each award was held up until 2003 at which time 136 artworks had been donated.

The Advocate Art Award is now our major event and is a snapshot of artwork being created in Central Australia by a cross section of artists in a wide variety of media.  For more than 30 years this exhibition has been organised, hung and administered by volunteers.

As in the beginning, the Central Australian Art Society continues to be run by volunteers who understand that an important part of a society’s culture is a vibrant arts community.

The CAAS committee has agreed that we should celebrate our 50th birthday by holding some form of celebration during the year.   We are still in discussion about this and will shortly report back to members with some ideas.

In the meantime, if any of you have photographs, articles or other memorabilia of past CAAS history/activities that you would be happy to share then we would love to hear from you.  Please contact Dugald Beattie on 8952 7172 or 0409 174 719.

Until next time … Happy Art!

Ron Talbot


March 2013

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