Community Art: the Growth of the Victor Harbor Creative Community - Part Two

Hi Everyone - today Rowdy Wylie and I continue the story of the development of the Victor Harbor Creative Artistic Community on the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia which is one of the oldest and most active visual arts communities in Australia. If you missed the previous two posts please click here for Community Art: Brief History of "Port Victor" now Victor Harbor, South Australia and Community Art: the Growth of the Victor Harbor Creative Community - Part One.

Our research into the developments of the arts in Victor Harbor indicated that a meeting in 1965 saw the formation of the Southern Districts Art Society. Over the next few years membership grew to 120 members which provided a strong educational emphasis and weekend tutorials for anyone interested in pursuing an interest in art. This society also conducted major art exhibitions in Adelaide and Victor Harbor with the intention of making works regularly accessible to the public.1 In December 1999 the society reported on a talented young local artist by the name of Tom O'Callaghan.

Tom is still living in the area and very active as a successful artist. His paintings reflect the amazing beauty of the area as shown below. If you would like to see more of Tom's paintings please click here.

Tom O'Callaghan: Top Left: Summer Reflections Right: Coastal Pastures Bottom Left: Tidal Pool, View to Kings Head  Right: High Light, Hayborough (Credit:

The Southern Districts Arts Society merged with the Victor Harbor Art Society and remains to this day very active from their base in the Victor Harbor Yacht Club building.

Those of us from the Australian Art Scene know of and respect the amazing contribution the Rotary Foundation of Australia has made to giving artists the chance to exhibit their work. The First Rotary Club Art show in Victor Harbor was announced in the local paper on 12 Sep 1979 - to be organised by the local Rotary Club of Victor Harbor and held 5 Jan - 13 Jan, 1980.1

The Chairman of the club's art show committee Mr Alfred Engel, said Victor Harbor was an ideal place to hold an art show.'I don't think there is any other place in Australia where you find so many amateur and professional artists together in the one community...1

We can report that 43 years later the City of Victor Harbor “Rotary Art Show” remains a Major Event on the Australian Visual Art scene… with over 60 Major Sponsors… very large numbers of visitors and tourists spend time in Victor Harbor visiting the local galleries.. a productive time for all…

At this point we want to make mention of Wendy Jennings and her contribution to the art community of Victor Harbor. Wendy is a member of the Victor Harbor Art Society, the South Coast Choral and Arts Society (SCCAS) and the Victor Harbor Regional Gallery which we will be addressing in the next post.

Importantly, Wendy is also one of the curators of the Rotary Art Show. Let us take a moment to enjoy a sample of Wendy's art work which features Australian Wildlife and you can check out her site by clicking here.

Wendy Jennings: Top Left: Magpies Us Right: Nannygai Bottom Left: Harlequin Fish Right: Emus

In 1982 renowned artist Alfred Engel had an idea of forming a more central Art Gallery in Victor Harbor for local artists to exhibit their works and become members… Alfred’s forward thinking and planning with this initiative was to create a sharing, friendly environment for like minded artists to enhance the region's creative community…

Being in the heart of Victor Harbor this would provide the public and tourists accessibility.. operating seven days a week.. all year round…
A building was secured at 24 Ocean Street Victor Harbor (an old butcher shop) and the name for the gallery was proclaimed.. The Ocean Street Art Society Inc. 2

Initially The Ocean Street Art Society had ten founding members who are shown below with an example of their art work.

Founding Members of the Ocean Street Art Society, Victor Harbor, South Australia (Photo Credit: “The Ocean Street Art Society Inc" booklet, n.d. )

Below is a short bio on each of the artists featured above. These bios come from the year the Ocean Street Art Society booklet was published. We haven't included the awards each artist has won as, quite frankly, there are too many to mention. Sadly, all except Alfred Engel and Betty Mahoney have died.

Alfred Heinrich Engel was born in 1941 in Innsbruck, Austria. He came to Australia in 1973, and has been a naturalised Australian since 1975. He and his wife, Joanne, have two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Alfred paints in oil, egg tempera or watercolour, and his style can be described as Super Realism or Trompe l'oeil.2

Painting as shown above: Willow Springs, oil

With her art ability stemming from childhood days, Barbara Bartel recalls how her music teacher encouraged her to give up singing lessons to study art. This advice proved to be sound because she went on to win a 3 year scholarship to study art at the Adelaide School of Arts.2

Painting as shown above: Droving in the Arkaba Valley, oil

Born in Hamley Bridge (S.A.), Betty Mahoney moved to Victor Harbor in 1958. In 1970 she carried out her childhood desire to become a serious painter. She studied art and soon proved that she had a natural ability for landscape painting. Betty found that she coped easily with oils, using the pallette knife technique and became highly successful with both oil and watercolour media.2

Painting as shown above: Black Waters, oil

Bill Needs had a natural flair for art since he was a lad. Born in Western Australia, he came to Victor Harbor in 1946. It was not until the early 1960's that Bill saw an opportunity to study art. He attended the South Coast's first painting school under George Bray. This encouraged him to make a thorough study of the 19th & 20th Century Realist Masters. Bill also had quite a flair for caricaturing.2

Painting as shown above: Many an Old Tune, oil

After returning to Victor Harbor from an extended overseas trip, Christopher Matthews decided to take up professional painting as a part of his career. This he undertook with surprising ability...He exhibited in oils and watercolours...2

Painting as shown above: On the slip - Goolwa, water colour

Although Heather McInnes always had a flair for painting, it wasn't until latter years that she took up painting more seriously as an ideal form of relaxation. She soon found that she was much more competent than she had imagined herself to be! Heather was tutored by Nola Seidel of Adelaide and she was greatly encouraged by fellow Society friends. She ably developed her skills to create a mood and atmosphere of her own.2

Painting as shown above: Moonta Cottages, oil

The success of bird and wildlife painting, lies in the artist's ability to ascertain the more characteristic traits of his subjects and to merge them into their natural habitats, in such a manner that the resulting compositions are both accurate and visually satisfying. John Cerlienco's paintings have a three dimensional quality, capturing the texture, essence and mood of the moment from the subject's own point of view. 2

Painting as shown above: Shallow Waters, acrylic

Marcia Bartley was born in Broken Hill but lived in South Australia since infancy. In 1964 she, with her husband and 3 children, settled in Victor Harbor. It was at Victor that she set out to become a serious landscape painter in oils. This she achieved to a high standard. It can be seen that her work shows a meticulous realist painter with a distinct and very pleasing style.2

Painting as shown above: Hindmarsh Tiers, oil

The first formal art training for Muriel Stevenson began at the age of 13 years on a scholarship with The South Australian School of Arts on a full time basis. Later, she worked in the city as a commercial artist and window dresser, and due to other commitments, returned to art in the mid 60's with the help of the late Mr. S. Len Jenkins & Reg Jordon.2

Painting as shown above: Aroona Valley, oil

Tom Cross showed considerable aptitude for drawing and sketching at an early age. He used to feature his friends in comic strips and caricatures. Later, he studied oil painting in Adelaide under Joy O'Reilly and Ingred Erns. After moving to Victor Harbor in recent years, Tom developed an interest in watercolours and pen & wash. In this medium he had outstanding success.2

Painting as shown above: Road to Kapunda, water colour

Below as we sign off today are two signs for the Ocean Street Art Gallery painted by one of the members of the group which played such an important role in establishing an art community in Victor Harbor.

Ocean Street Art Gallery signs (Photos: John "Rowdy" Wylie)

Tomorrow we will introduce you to the Victor Harbor Regional Gallery and tell you the story of how a bakery figured in the development of this addition to the art community of Victor Harbor.

1. Articles from the Victor Harbor Times: 12 Sep 1979, 3 June 1999
2. Research notes collected by John "Rowdy" Wylie including from the booklet produced by The Ocean Street Art Society Inc.n.d.; Founding Member Conversation with renowned Artist Alfred Engel; Current Member Conversations with Margaret McEntee, Wendy Jennings, Annette Vandenberg, Yvonne Mc Glone & Anne Blanchard; Kate Shierlaw… VHRG venue – “Old Bakery Building” information; William Henry Smith - Baker of “Port Victor” Publication; The “Victor Harbor Art Society” web site.

The Victor Harbor Regional Gallery Members Co-op acknowledges the Ramindjeri & Ngarrindjeri people as Traditional Custodians of the land and oceans where we live and create works of art.