Celebrating 30 years of the West Gippsland Arts Centre
 Baw Baw Entertainment   By // 15:25, Sunday 11 November 2012

THE West Gippsland Arts Centre has reached its 30th Birthday.

A vision for the future of the area back in the 1970’s and 80’s saw the creation of the Centre: a vision which was celebrated last month in a community event.


As Art Gippsland, the art show of the Warragul Rotary Club bumped out of the foyer of the building, it was replaced with press clippings from the 30 years of the Baw Baw Shire’s arts venue.

The headlines are a mix of positive and negative reports, from successful local arts displays to big-dollar losses on touring shows: all part of the rich history of this community facility.

In his opening speech at last month’s event, Baw Baw Shire Manger Arts and Culture Rob Robson reflected on a recent realisation he had while showing a local scout group around.

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He realised the people who planned the Centre were not building something for their time, but for future generations of West Gippslanders.

The large wood carving by Eva Schubert. Photo: David ‘Wombat’ Lyons.

Mr Robson noted the valuable role community contributions from businesses, fundraising events and individuals in funding the Centre, as well as a significant investment of State Government funds.

The West Gippsland Arts Centre was built at the same time as other similar institutions around the state, all supported by the Hamer State Government which left a lasting legacy for the state’s performing arts groups.

Following Mr Robson’s presentation, the audience was treated to a concert performance by Australian favourites of stage and screen Rachael Beck and Ian Stenlake, in their show “You & I”.

The performance was a collection of love songs from musical theatre and included a special singing of “Happy Birthday” as part of the Arts Centre celebrations.

For me, the highlight of the night was something that has been on display for a long time at the Arts Centre: the historical wood carving by Eva Schubert.

I often attend events at the Arts Centre in the small space known as the Board Room, on the side wall of which this huge carving stands.


When large events are on the dividing wall between the Board Room and the Park View room is often opened, putting this work on show.

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At the 30th celebration night LED lighting was used to highlight this significant historical pictorial.

Mr Robson noted in his closing remarks that a tape recording explaining the events depicted in the works had been resorted and was available for those interested in hearing more about the sections and factual aspects depicted in the work.

The carving is however best viewed as a fantastic work of local art, as some historical milestones have been omitted in the journey the carving takes you on.

It depicts the original dense forests of the area, early clearing of the land and the building of settlers’ homes.

It shows the beginnings of Warragul and milestones like the first train and first school.

Farming, harvesting and agricultural activities are profiled along with the development of the town along with the construction of landmarks like the Warragul Hospital and Queen Street.

The timeline ends in the 1980’s with the then-new Arts Centre making an appearance.

This work often leaves me wondering: if more panels were to be made of the post- amalgamation period, what events would be added? The closing of the Warragul Outdoor Swimming Pool, the building of skate parks and housing developments?

As the 30th celebration of the West Gippsland Arts Centre shows, it is a venue which plays an important role in the community’s life.

I look forward to attending its mid-life crisis at 40 years, its golden 50th and, if I am lucky, I’ll be fit and healthy and enjoying a beer at its diamond celebrations.

Congratulations to those who made the 30th event possible, from the community leaders in the 1970’s who valued the arts, to the present staff who host the venue’s events.

David “Wombat” Lyons loves the creative side of life in West Gippsland. A goat farmer and Youth Worker, Wombat enjoys taking time out in creative community life and reporting back on it in The Warragul Citizen.

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2 responses to “Celebrating 30 years of the West Gippsland Arts Centre”

  1. Wombat lyons says:

    Thanks for printing will

  2. Roderick Smith says:

    AFAIK I was at opening night, Strzlecki Showtime. Because of the ceremony for the civic fathers, it opened without a technical rehearsal: a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Curtain and lighting cues were slow; the show ran an hour over time. They did get through the program; we all enjoyed it; we all got home before dawn.
    Where did 30 years go?