The Annual Art Exhibition is one of the longest running art exhibitions in regional NSW. The Annual Art Exhibition has evolved over the years, is well known in the Arts community and attracts accomplished artists from all over NSW, Victoria and Queensland to exhibition their artworks.
The generous support of the former Tumut Shire Council (and now Snowy Valleys Council), the general community, Government at both State and Federal levels, and financial donations from businesses and individuals towards the awards for the Annual Exhibition, has attracted many quality artworks. This has played a huge part in putting the Tumut Art Society and the Annual Art Exhibition on the may and creating an exhibition that has become known as one of the best in Regional Australia.
The Art Exhibition’s success can also be attributed to the passion, tenacity, and commitment of the founders and members. The success is also partly due to the sheer beauty of the Tumut and surrounding area which inspires artists from all over Australia to make regular pilgrimages to the area where they immerse area themselves in painting the local scenery. Many of these artworks end up in the Tumut Art Exhibition as well as exhibited nationally and internationally. The Tumut Art Society has a very good collection of paintings, mostly donated by visiting artists conducting workshops, some signed by world renowned artists.
The first Art Exhibition was held in 1957, and has been running every year since, except in 1968 when no venue was available. Tumut has been very fortunate in being able to procure some very high profile judges for the Annual Exhibitions.
It all started when a small and enthusiastic group of “art lovers” began painting with encouragement from Lyle Baker and others. They set up their easels wherever they were abler to find space – they used a back room of a service station, private homes, and often packing their lunches and going out painting for the day.
The first Art Exhibition was organised by the Tumut Rotary Festival Committee and was opened in one building and then moved to another building across the street for the duration of the festival. Notable people at the exhibition were Dame Pattie Menzies, Sir William Hudson and William Dargie. The Art Exhibition continue and was held in a few different venues.
In 1962 the inaugural meeting of the Tumut Art Society was held and for a number of years the Society used temporary accommodation. Lyle Baker was always on the lookout for permanent premises and to establish a community cultural centre. Membership was growing rapidly. In 1970 when land, with a small quaint cottage at the 5Ways came on the market, Lyle Baker purchased the property on behalf of the Society and in time the Society paid him back the money he used to buy the cottage and land. The little cottage was made suitable by members and friends for a studio. It was the pride of there Society. Growing membership and space presented some problems. Sadly the cottage was burnt down by vandals in 1998.
In 1973, the Art Society purchased a Snowy Mountains Authority building from Talbingo and transported it to 5Ways – a new studio was now in place. Notable persons and politicians visited the Tumut Art Society, including Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. In 1978, another building was purchased from Blowering. The Tumut Football Club bought half the building, the other half was butted on to the first building. In 1979, the building was opened by Premier Neville Wran. Later, with a Cultural Grant from the Government, a storeroom was added to the building.
In 1974 the Annual Art Exhibition was held in the RSL carpark and continued for 25 years.
In 1999, the NSW Ministry for the Arts awarded the Tumut Art Society a grant for $25,000. This was matched with $25,000 from the Blakeney Millar Foundation to extend the 5Ways Studio to accommodate Exhibitions, especially the Annual Art Exhibition as the RSL car park was no longer suitable. The Annual Art Exhibition was held in the new Tumut Art Society Lyle Baker Gallery and 5Ways Studio in 2000 for the first time and has continued to be used for this Exhibition and others since.