The Toowoomba Art Club was established in 1925 by a small group of women in the studio of a painter, Miss Else Aebi. The Club’s aims were “to promote among its members education in pictorial art”, “foster friendly intercourse” and “assist members with expert advice”, to be achieved through “monthly meetings, lectures and demonstrations”. The emphasis then as now was on painting and drawing. Membership was 5 shillings per annum.
The Committee was soon led by quite high profile men such as Ralph Weppner and Herb Carstens and the Club became Toowoomba Art Society, though things didn’t always run smoothly. In the 1930s much of their effort went into the push for a City Art Gallery which opened in 1938 in the City Hall in Ruthven St, Queensland’s first regional public art gallery. Occasional donations of art works to the City Gallery by TAS increased in the 1960s, and in the ‘70s winning works from TAS-organised exhibitions such as the Caltex Award were routinely purchased by TAS , often with Visual Arts Board assistance, and donated to the City Collection. By 1980 almost 50 works had been donated.
After WW2 the Art Society continued to augment its meetings, lectures and demonstrations with a variety of classes, workshops, field trips, excursions and exhibitions, and from 1950 members helped organise The Chronicle Junior Art Competition.
In 1959 it initiated the popular and continuing children’s art classes, ensuring the Society’s offerings catered to all age groups. In the early 1960s the City Council allowed TAS to move into the former Council Library on the corner of Victoria and Russell Sts free of charge. This new home was not well situated, and it deteriorated to the point where in the 1980s a permanent home was required.
A dynamic Committee led by the late Allison Dickson and Anne Gardiner, the availability of an unoccupied 1906 property beside Queens Park which had housed the Lionel Lindsay Gallery (1959–73), and the emergence of a benefactor, Wal Culliford, who bought and leased it to TAS, resulted in a permanent home in 1987.
Plans to renovate led instead to replacing Culliford House to provide better facilities for our membership and range of activities. In 2008 the old house was moved off-site to again become a family home, and a custom-built replacement was opened on 17 April 2009.
TAS currently offers a range of classes, some taught, others more socially oriented, occasional bus trips to galleries, regular Friday night exhibition openings, talks and functions. Other community groups such as U3A use the facilities which can be hired by affiliated groups, and the reinvigorated gallery is available by application for exhibitions by individual and group members.
Major annual fixtures are the Members’ Exhibition at Carnival of Flowers time, and the mid-year Toowoomba Art Society/Chronicle Junior Art Expo at Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery.
Allan Bruce, President