Edited by Kerry Thomas and Janet Chan
Chapter 23: How to start an art centre
The name of this chapter picks up on the practical ‘hands on’ approach suggested by the title of this publication, whose editors invited me to contribute an account of my role in the establishment of the Aboriginal art centre Papunya Tjupi. The result maybe regarded as a case study in the struggle of a creative community against bureaucratic obstacles or a lesson in community building at personal, social and institutional levels or a revelation of how art simultaneously builds upon and transforms its conditions and its traditions—or all of these. What stands out for me after setting down this story is how vital so many people’s active support for, or just belief in the possibility of there being, an art centre at Papunya was to the achievement of the artists’ objective. I am reminded of the Skin Horse’s words of wisdom on how a plaything becomes real: it’s not about how you are made, but something that happens to you that takes a very long time and requires real love and tolerance of pain and doesn’t happen to ‘those who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept’ (Williams, 1981, p. 14).
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