I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published July 29th 2013
As soon as I read about the Bunker Cartoon Gallery, I decided I would have to work it into my stay in Coffs Harbour. The gallery is housed in an old RAAF WWII bunker and is the only one dedicated to black and white art in the country. It also holds the biggest private collection of contemporary cartoons anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
My companion and I made it to the gallery an hour before closing time (4.00pm), having visited Dolphin Marine Magic earlier in the afternoon. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by a very friendly and helpful staff member, who suggested we watch a video on the bunker's history before we went inside.
Viewing this film out the foyer is something I definitely recommend. It's not long and offers you one of your only chances to truly appreciate your surrounds; there isn't really any other reference to the bunker's history anywhere else at the gallery (except for a sheet of paper you can collect as you walk in).
The bunker's past is quite intriguing. For example, it was once used by the RAAF Base Operations to communicate with its aircraft, control area and headquarters as it tried to protect this area of Australia's coast. If I didn't know the story, I'm not sure if the space would have particularly impressed me; today it just looks like a long room with white walls and black curved roof.
This room was quite full on my visit however. The walls were hung with cartoons from the gallery's Coffs Cartoon Collection, all selected according to the current exhibition's Dinner Party theme (new shows are held every month or so and also include travelling exhibitions and community presentations). I'm not usually a cartoon fan, having come here only because the place sounded so unique, but I found them all very entertaining and I think I recognised some artists from newspapers I read in Sydney.
As well as all the cartoons, the exhibition included quite a lot of other features. In keeping with the 'dinner party' theme, in the middle of one end of the room was a table, laid out as if for a special occasion. Seated around it were caricatures of celebrities and well known figures.
Also up this end were shelves of cartoons to read, with some to interest all ages. There was a television (though I'm not sure when it's actually turned on), lounges and drawing area for kids too.
More to read
In the middle of the room, right across from the doorway, cars from a local collector were on display. A bit out of place I thought, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.
A collector's cars
The rest of the space was empty, except for a table which had folders of works from the rest of the Coffs Cartoon Collection. After reading all the ones on the walls my companion and I still had half an hour left before closing, so we sat and read these for a while.
I probably would have liked to stay at the gallery longer - my appreciation of this genre was definitely developed by my visit and I enjoyed looking at all the different cartoons. Whatever exhibitions are held in future, I expect they would have to be pretty good too, especially if the same effort is applied that went into this one (the table was my favourite part of the Dinner Party show, probably because it was so unexpected).