Formerly known as the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, this Lydiard Street tourist hotspot is definitely worth a visit. With exhibitions from local and national artists as well as educational programs and frequent events, there's something for everyone. Their collection is impressive, with works by prominent artists such as Howard Arkley, Norman Lindsay, Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan, and Nora Heysen.
Foreground: 'Abraham' by Ola Cohn. Right: 'Unknown Political Prisoner II' by Russian artist Danila Vassilieff
The ground floor of the gallery contains much of Ballarat's history, with not only art but artefacts showcasing the days of the gold rush. Most breathtaking is the original Eureka flag, made during the Miner's rebellion of 1854, which is modestly presented in a dimly lit room to preserve what is left of the delicate fabric. The Eureka flag depicts the Southern Cross, and is the first non-British flag sworn allegiance to on Australian soil.
As expected, the Gallery is quiet, clean and peaceful. Works by Japanese artists sit in adjacent rooms to works from Arnhem Land, and I'm one of about fifteen people wandering amongst the collection on a Sunday afternoon.
I spent a fair bit of time in this gallery as a child – many times as a visitor either alone or with a school group, once as a participant in a printmaking class, and finally as a work experience student, where I went behind the scenes and discovered the workings of Australia's oldest and largest regional gallery.
A section of one of my favourite works: Rick Amor's 'Study for the Dry Season', oil on canvas, 2003.
Back inside, a staff member politely helps me locate a sculpture that I know has been part of the Gallery's collection for many years. "Up the stairs, turn left, and go all the way to the back". It's the only piece you are allowed to touch, and visitors have gradually worn this creature's nose and stomach smooth over years of doing just that.
Redgum sculpture 'Tyger' by Bruce Armstrong, 1984.