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The June long weekend was a very busy time for the Gulgong Arts Council with three mammoth events.


Our une[art]hed exhibition saw in excess of 675 visitors between Friday and Sunday (and they’re just the ones we could count via their voting tickets). Guest judge, Wendy Sharpe, spoke favourably of the wide range of media presented (which, no doubt, made her choices more difficult). Our heartfelt gratitude to Wendy for taking the time out of her busy schedule to visit Gulgong, enduring multiple flight cancellations (thanks Pelican!) and offering her services for free.

The awards were presented by Wendy on Friday night during an enjoyable evening of art appreciation and conversation. The event was catered by senior hospitality students from Gulgong High School. The initially nervous teen waitstaff were very soon at their ease taking platters of delicious savory treats to the crowd. And that crowd was dotted with famous faces including Linda Jackson - a pioneering figure in fashion design since the early 1970s - plus film and art director Mika Nishimura, who stayed in Gulgong for the weekend to see both Arts Council events. Luke Sciberras, an Australian Postwar & Contemporary painter now living in Hill End was here for The Witching Hour concert. 

Around 7pm Wendy addressed the crowd. Before the awards were presented she related some observations about the judging process and also her experience of being judged; the moral being, don’t give up even if you don’t win this time.

The $3000 award for best exhibit (Adult) went to Felicity Cavanough of Mudgee for her exquisite piece, “Laid Bare”, made entirely of copper wire.

Guest judge, Wendy Sharpe, with Felicity Cavanough's prize-winning
entry, "Laid Bare". Photo by Meryl Tankard.

The $500 best exhibit (Youth) was awarded to a sculptural piece called “Atmospheric” by 17-year-old Darcie Gravitis from Dubbo. Darcie drove her works over after school on delivery day and came back for Opening Night. Wendy spoke highly of three of Darcie’s works, any of which could have won the category! What a fantastic experience for this young artist.





Clockwise from left: "Rupert Murdoch", "Atmospheric" and "Washed Away" by Darcie Gravitis


The $100 award for best exhibit (Child) was won by 4-year-old Nathan Kleu for a wonderful drawing of a Digger. Nathan had also entered a sock sculpture of a “Dragon Unearthing Treasure” and was able to describe very earnestly how it fit the “unearthed theme” by telling me “because treasure is underground you know!”. A whole room full of hearts melted when Nathan walked up to receive his $100 prize and shake Wendy’s hand.

The Kleu family had multiple entries featuring socks, drawings, lego and even root vegetables! Lachlan Kleu was the highest-rating youth entry, despite being the youngest in that category at just 11 years old. Arts Council realised it was an oversight not to award this and came up with a special extra prize for Lachlan, presented by Meryl Tankard. He was so pleased he invented a cake recipe and baked it for Meryl the next day.

Two Memorial Prizes, each worth $500, were awarded to mark the lives of former Arts Council icons. The Richard Cross Memorial Award went to Frank Denis of Mudgee for his astonishingly clever image of a face formed by layers of mesh. The aptly titled, “I see you now” also ranked highly in the People’s Choice votes. The Helen Oakley Memorial Prize went to Catherine Sykes, of Erudgere, for her ceramic piece, “The Interconnectedness of our dreams”. This work represented the idea that dreaming of another person causes them to dream of us and so despite the separation of covid lockdown people could still feel tethered.














"I see you now" by Frank Denis and "The Interconnectedness of our dreams" by Catherine Sykes.


Four Highly Commended Awards of $100 went to Sue Nichols of The Gallery Gulgong for her photo, “Disturbed”, depicting the partially unearthed face of a creepy doll. Art is all about eliciting a reaction and this work certainly did that! One of Michael Bourke’s many crowd-pleasing works, “Minotaur Leaving Stacks Downunder” stood out from the others for commendation, as did Justine Parkins’ self-portrait, “Me”. Justine was only 3 votes short of winning the People’s Choice Award and scored very highly for a number of her other entries, but it was Tanya Stevens’ striking dot painting titled “Medicine Wheel” that received the most votes and won People’s Choice ($500) and a Highly Commended from Wendy ($100). Tanya’s painting depicted representations of mountains, a waterhole and campsite and referenced her Blue Mountains/Gundungurra Heritage.

"Disturbed" by Sue Nicholls and "Me" by Justine Parkins.













"Minotaur Leaving Stacks Downunder" by Michael Bourke


















People's Choice Award and Highly Commended winner, "Medicine Wheel" by Tanya Stevens


Wendy singled out four more works for commendation. They were:

  • Mia Erder in the Children’s category for her painting titled “The struggle of Good vs Evil”;

  • Taylor Bourke, a year 7 student from Coolah for her landscape painting (our thanks to Anne Stadler, art teacher, for encouraging her students to participate);

  • Nicola Mason, for one of three small paintings of scenes and visions of her time living in France; and

  • Tina Matthews for a delicate mobile of glassine cones titled “Three Mothers Heading Anywhere but Home” (I just love that title!).

Tina, a Sydney-based children’s book author and illustrator was in Gulgong last October as one of our guest artists conducting lantern-making workshops. By chance, Fiona Howle, the other lantern expert, came to Gulgong on the long weekend in the guise of "Mary Beyers" and participated in character with “Beaufoy Merlin” (Peter Solness) for the night walking tour of the town.

See a full list of exhibitors here


Saturday morning saw a proliferation of scarecrows appearing on Herbert Street and the sunny weather made for a very pleasant stroll among these creative and amusing characters. French photographer, Régis Lansac OAM, judged (and photographed) the awesome array of straw folk and chose the following winners:

  • Tanya Green for Scary Mary (Humorous category);

  • Ashley Delaney/Gulgong High School for “Ash” (Schools category); and

  • the Watt kids took out the People’s Choice Award and the Recycled Category with their sculptural work, “Gone Fishing”. The Watts also had multiple entries in the unearthed competition. Great work kids!

This event was sponsored by Moolarben Coal and long-term scarecrow supporters Bruce McGregor Real Estate with the support of Bill Murphy.

See Scarecrow photos here



Over 200 people attended the Prince of Wales Opera House on Saturday afternoon; many visiting this illustrious venue for the first time and travelling from as far away as Sydney.


The Witching Hour event combined projected artworks with live piano playing on the Steinway. Did I mention the artworks were those of Archibald-winning artist, Wendy Sharpe and the music was composed, improvised and played by musical genius Elena Kats-Chernin? This duo was an instant hit with the audience and their talent and warmth was both entertaining and delightful.

People will be talking about The Witching Hour for years to come. And I think the artists have discovered that the danger of having a Q&A after a show is that you might get a question asking you about the possibility of making this an annual event! Elena is now in love with Gulgong so... fingers crossed.

Thanks to Judith James who used her experience producing shows at the Gulgong Opera House to set up our ticketing and run front of house. Bernadette Eichner was instrumental in spreading the word to ticket-buyers far and wide.


One can’t say enough good things about our Arts Council committee and active volunteers. President Lia Finnie, new to the role, braved the limelight to make public speeches for the first time since high school! Sue Bridgford, Treasurer, took time out of her birthday weekend to be our RSA-qualified bar staff on Opening Night. Meryl Tankard, our Events Director, shared her expert design sense in helping to hang our exhibition and days later produced one of the biggest shows the Opera House has ever seen.

Toni Morrison shared her knowledge of previous long weekend events with the newer committee members and almost single-handedly ran this year’s Scarecrow Stroll. I think Gulgong could enter the Guinness Book of Records for number of “Selfies with a Scarecrow taken in one day”.

Active non-committee members include Justine Parkins who spent the whole week in the Memorial Hall getting it ready: hanging artworks, washing wine glasses, and being an absolute champion. Anne Stadler used a pupil-free day to help hang the art and to staff the exhibition and even came back for packing up! What a star! In addition to contributing artworks and a prize-winning scarecrow, Tanya Green was an invaluable exhibition host with her sister Jacinta. Jacinta was also a power of help packing up. Former GAC President, Robyn Andrews, expertly arranged our foliage and our voting system and Rebecca Nielsen contributed an enormous amount of time and energy despite her other weekend commitments like the old-time children’s games at the HLH Festival.

All good things come to an end and by Sunday afternoon our weary volunteers had to dig deep to find the energy to pack up the entire hall. Special thanks to Mikael Nielson, Geoffrey Kleu, and Sharon Watt for injecting fresh energy and abundant muscle power (and car space) to haul our hefty resources down to the Showground for storage.

But that’s not all. After the doors close there are votes to count, artworks to return, cheques to write and plans to be made for next year when we do it all again. We hold this event for Gulgong but we can’t do it without you. Thank you to so many artists for sharing your work with us and thank you to the crowds of locals who came to enjoy the art.


If you are interested in joining the Arts Council just drop us a line at or come to any of our public meetings typically held on the 2nd Saturday of the month (1pm, RSL boardroom). These events would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship of Moolarben Coal and Stubbo Solar (Renewable Energy by ACEN). Assistance was also provided by MWRC and GCOC, The Gallery Gulgong and printstorm.

See more photos here

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