Fascinating story of Wollongong Art Gallery

Must go again! On an earlier visit:

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It is the Gallery’s 40th anniversary.

An immersive interactive installation project that celebrates the significant and generous gift by Bronius (Bob) Sredersas, a Lithuanian migrant and steel worker whose personal art collection became the impetus for the establishment of Wollongong Art Gallery.

Incorporating the Sredersas art collection, this innovative multidisciplinary exhibition recognizes both the Gallery’s origins and celebrates the contribution that migrants and refugees have made and continue to make to our communities.

This work has been created by the Society of Histrionic Happenings under the curatorship of Anne-Louise Rentell​ through the Gallery’s Visiting Curators Program.

​​THE GIFT on Vimeo

See also THE GALLERY / The Story of Us.

It was not until 1975 after a chance meeting with a very modest gentleman named Bronius (Bob) Sredersas. Bob wanted to donate his collection to the “Children of Wollongong”. This momentous gift was the catalyst on which the Art Gallery was built (Sredersas Gallery). The Illawarra County Council donated the property formally known as the Hughes Whetton Reilly Building (now Wollongong Youth Centre), including the land upon which it stood to Council on the proviso that the property be used for an Art Gallery. Through the persistence and hard work of the society, volunteers and donors, and with the assistance of Council and Government funding bodies, a Director and Board of Trustee was appointed and on the 2 June 1978 Wollongong City Gallery was officially opened by Mr Neville Wran, Premier of NSW at 85 Burelli Street, Wollongong attended by over 500 people. The first exhibition was titled Burghers of Calais, with works borrowed for the National Gallery and Art Gallery of NSW.                                      

Local ABC has a great feature: The Lithuanian secret service officer whose art collection changed an Australian city.

Bronius 'Bob Sredersas stands in front of a painting while holding a cigarette.

I was back in Wollongong by late 1978, though seeing out the year working at Sydney University.

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“North Wollongong Beach in the early 1980’s. Photo thanks to Lost Wollongong member Michael Schurr.” I was living not far away in Church Street at that time – well, at least from late 1978 to the beginning of 1981.

I recall hearing about “The Gift” at the time. Interesting the role played by Father Michael Bach, whom I met earlier in the 70s when he officiated at a wedding where I was a groomsman.

Mr Sredersas’ life outside of work could not have been more contradictory — he would not be seen at the local pubs that were filled with steelworkers or at the local football matches and horse races.

Instead, he would spend his time at his fibro cottage in the Wollongong suburb of Cringila, tending to a garden of roses, cabbages, lemons and a line of trees to absorb the dust from the steelworks.

It was in 1956 when he decided that his home needed a painting and he caught the train to Sydney, a journey he would regularly make over a period of 20 years….

In 1977, hastened by a break-in which saw 13 of the works stolen — including two Willian Ashtons and a Norman Lindsay — Mr Sredersas began to wonder where his collection would be stored over the long term.

He decided that the people of Wollongong, the city he felt he owed a great debt to, should own the paintings.

A devout Catholic, Mr Sredersas, who was then in his late 60s, enlisted the help of Father Michael Bach who was the administrator of Wollongong Cathedral at the time….

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Yes, I watched it! And with much pleasure…

While not necessarily endorsing all the theological framework underpinning it, I could but rejoice at the breath of fresh air — and demonstration of the power of speech — that was “US Episcopal church [bishop], Michael Curry, a campaigner for LGBT rights and racial justice.” See Astonishment as dose of civil rights puts seal on a radical wedding.

“Imagine governments and nations when love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way.” In wry self-deprecation, he made the congregation giggle by assuring them he was almost done. “With this I will sit down,” he joked, “we gotta get y’all married.” He then went on to recall French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “one of the great minds and spirits of the 20th century”, in a fiery conclusion urging that “ if human beings ever harness the energies of love, then for the second time in history, we will have discovered fire.”

[Archbishop of Canterbury] Welby urged his followers on Twitter to watch the 13 minute sermon in full, describing it as “extraordinary and powerful”.

See also fellow-blogger “Happy Antipodean”: Cross-cultural threads embellish the royal wedding and Annabel Crabb: Royal wedding: Reverend Bishop Michael Curry upstages Meghan Markle with impassioned sermon.

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…there was one woman who looked entirely comfortable, nodding along contentedly to the words of the visiting bishop.

And it was the woman who otherwise had the most reason to feel ill at ease — the woman who only two days earlier had flown from California to London to meet the Queen, say hello to her only daughter, then head to a castle built one millennium ago by William the Conqueror to see that daughter marry a prince in front of a global television audience of 20 million or so.

Doria Ragland — whose own ancestors were slaves, and who was unaccompanied at the ceremony, quietly wiping tears from her cheeks as she watched her daughter — was quite at ease with the soaring rhetoric, and didn’t seem to notice the bubble of nervous hysteria building among the congregation.

Loved that gospel choir version of Stand By Me too!

Sir Joseph Banks High School: inspiring

Last night on SBS we met this young man, among others.

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They are the captains of Sir Joseph Banks High School in S-W Sydney. He is also dux. The school not only encompasses just about everything Pauline Hanson would be scared of, head-scarves for example, it also brings to life just why she is tragically wrong-headed. Not to mention all those Hanson think-alikes (male or female) out there.

At Sir Joseph Banks High School we are proudly inclusive. We welcome students to our school wholeheartedly, and celebrate the fact that they come from a wide range of cultural and language backgrounds. Within the school, we have fostered an environment where students care for each other and for those less fortunate than themselves. Our growing reputation within the East Hills and Bankstown areas is based on the success of our students who are thriving in this environment and who are able to take advantage of the huge range of opportunities we provide for them.

This explains How Sir Joseph Banks High School turned its fortunes around.

Just a few years ago, student numbers at Sir Joseph Banks High were dwindling; it was far from the first choice of school for many and its reputation meant neighbouring high schools attracted the best and the brightest.

But within three years, the dedicated team of teachers, led by principal Murray Kitteringham, have turned the school around and for two years in a row, every student from the Revesby school who has applied for a university place has been accepted….

[The Principal] said the school had a reputation of being a “rough school” and the local Arabic population favoured single-sex schools over Sir Joseph Banks.

But while the school is still dominated by boys, the number of girls is rising and there has been an overall growth in enrolments of 10 per cent in 18 months. It is also the top school in its area for student growth – the most important measure in education.

The school has used some of its federal Gonski funding to employ a youth worker for years 7 to 10 students as well as a senior studies coordinator, Amaney Khazma Roumieh, who develops a personalised learning plan for every senior student….

Do yourself a favour if you can and watch that episode of Insight, linked at the top of this post, and also on the school’s website.

This extremely powerful episode will touch your emotions and make you feel very proud that you are part of our Joeys’ family. Where else do people care so much for each other that they go above and beyond to provide the support needed for students to succeed? Thank you to the many students who bravely shared their stories. We applaud you!

As a former teacher I am just in awe at what this school has done!

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Year 7 students from Sir Joseph Banks HS being inspired by a visit to Sydney University

Noted en passant…

You may have noticed I am tending to the visual lately, rather than adding my two cents worth on what excites the news watcher. Today an exception.

First: Israel, Iran, Trumpery and all. You may care to visit some of my older thoughts first: for example (2009) — Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible?

I am not, never have been, a fan of Mr Netanyahu. This is a sentiment I have shared over the years with a number of Jews and Israelis, so I am not alone. I found his propaganda Powerpont on Iran’s nukes sick-making, but not in the way he wanted. Rather, see in Foreign Policy (USA) Bibi’s Infomercial for the Iran Deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dog and pony show on Monday, in which he displayed a trove of documents from Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, had an audience of precisely one. It was part of a coordinated effort with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to kill the Iran nuclear deal. And, if you don’t know anything about Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, perhaps it was persuasive.

But if you do — if you happen to have a blog called Arms Control Wonk, for example — you will have heard it all before. There was nothing new in Netanyahu’s presentation, at least nothing that would change someone’s mind about the nuclear deal. In fact, Netanyahu’s presentation works as an advertisement for the pact he was trying to take down….

Unfortunately he probably scored big with his target audience. Do read that whole item. Not the first “dodgy dossier” we’ve seen, is it?

You might also like to read about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal.

And now for something completely different, and very pleasing: Encounter made me realise I was wrong to oppose Safe Schools! Catherine McGregor, bless you!

I believe in God. I am a deeply flawed Christian. Yet, as scripture tells us so are we all. Redemption came from an unlikely quarter last week.

I worked with two trans men on the show along with two gay actors. One young trans man told me how much he resented me for my stance on Safe Schools in 2016 and for my life as a soldier. He found me incomprehensible. A fascist at best. And a tool of the Australian Christian Lobby in its vile war on trans people at worst.

It could easily have escalated into the pointless dialogue of the deaf that dominates Twitter. Hate uncluttered by reason. But we hugged and chatted. We are now dear friends. His name is Charles O’Grady….

Even more to my chagrin, I failed to anticipate the ammunition I offered to those like Miranda Devine and Lyle Shelton who refuse outright to accept the reality and legitimacy of trans identity.

They purr reassuringly about not wanting kids to make irrevocable mistakes before puberty. Currently, they are providing a platform for a charlatan with no medical qualifications whose position is that all trans identity is “broken” and must be lovingly “reversed”. His qualifications are in “religious freedom” and “political science”….

Safe School supporters and protesters clash in Canberra in August 2017.

Again, I am proud to refer you to a post or three of my own, such as 2016’s Show some backbone, PM!

As Malcolm Turnbull yesterday caved into his party’s religious right and announced an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition one thing became clear: we are in the midst of a culture war. And vulnerable children are being used as cannon fodder.In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded, claiming it was being used to “indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism.”

Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87: .@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.

First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers….

Well, probably back to photos next time….

 

For Anzac Day

What better than to repost from last year?

I have posted often on this, as last year’s Anzac Day reposts: 1 shows. In 2015 I posted:

In my Neil’s Decades series you will find much that is relevant.

See

And going back to the South African War I should add:

….pictures of the people – all relatives – mentioned in those posts…

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John Hampton Christison in South Africa; David Christison, his son, a sapper on the Western Front in WW1; Keith Christison, my uncle, WW2

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Neil Christison, my uncle, RAAF WW2; Jeff Whitfield, my father, RAAF WW2

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Norman Harold Whitfield MC and bar, German New Guinea, Gallipoli, Western Front – from Wollongong; Kenneth Ross Whitfield, my uncle, from Shellharbour