Scroll Top
Our early years

In 2024 Arts OutWest celebrates 50 years of arts and cultural development in the NSW Central West. We’re the oldest of what is now a robust and vital network of 15 regional arts development organisations across the state. We have only been called Arts OutWest since the mid 1980s.

From 1974-1980 there was a single field officer/ regional community arts officer (the incredible Maragret Smith) running the ‘Central West Community Arts Program’. From 1980 that single officer worked with volunteers of the Central Western Regional Arts Committee with additional staff employed from 1986. Mitchell College (now Charles Sturt University) was an early, practical, partner and this relationship continues today.

Board minutes from those first decades describe wrangling the first computer, compiling directories of artists, the appreciation for the media program, arguing the value of arts with local councils, long distances of travel (the region was initially much larger and included areas like Dubbo) and, predictability, funding battles (which, to our thanks, they took on and made good).

Probably what isn’t as illuminated in mere AGM minutes is the social capital invested (although staff working 12-14 hours days is noted more than once!) and those personal stories: the social and cultural impact of the work Arts OutWest did.

Times (and technology) change but the focus has been remarkably constant. The Arts OutWest story has been about both artists and communities need for leadership; for information and connection; their need to be supported in their creative careers and ambitions; and to be challenged with new opportunities or new art experiences. An organisation that supports and seeds creative activity in collaboration with a growing ecosystem of arts entities in the region. Like any 50-year-old arts organisation it’s also been a story of funding changes and challenges, of continually making relationships from grass roots to all levels of government. Key strengths seem to prevail: collaboration, very dedicated staff, and a wealth of both good will and creativity in our communities. After 50 years the arts are as vital in our lives as ever.

This history was published is a short document for our 50th Anniversary Dinner June 2024.

A BIG disclaimer:

This is very much a potted history pulled lightly from annual reports, file boxes, a giant tub of photos and more recent staff and board memories (some staff have been here for more than a third of the organisation’s existence). We most certainly have missed LOTS of things and people (lost filing labels and a few office moves might be to blame). 

DO YOU HAVE MORE STORIES? We’d love to share your Arts OutWest memories over the coming year (and perhaps put names, places and dates to faces in the photos on this page) so please get in touch.

A very short history of Arts OutWest

arts and cultural development in the NSW Central West

Getting things started

1973 Research and forums were held into the need for a community arts program in the Central West.

The Australia Council makes funds available to the Central West Regional Advisory Council to employ a Field Officer for six weeks to survey arts activity in the region and to “establish whether some degree of communication and coordination would benefit.”

1974 – June 1976 Central West Community Arts Program established. Funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. Margaret Smith Employed.

July 1976 From July 1976 position continues as Regional Community Arts Officer, jointly funded by local governments in the region, the Bathurst-Orange Development Corporation and the Australia Council, with administrative support provided by the State Government through the Regional Advisory Council. Employed through the Central Western Regional Advisory Council.

1978-79 Joint funding from federal and state government (Department of Decentralisation and Development and the Division of Cultural Activities, Premier’s Department).

By 1979 arts promotion activities include broadcasts on ABC regional radio and 2MCEfm – continues to present day.

1980 – Central Western Regional Arts Committee

Central Western Regional Arts Committee established and continues the employment of the field officer (Margaret Smith, later Karen Tyler). The Committe had representatives from councils, state government and the Australia Council and other stakeholders.

Mitchell College (now CSU) provided an office and admin support from October 1980.

Though part-time, the Officer in fact did a full-time job and more. The Central Western Region has been fortunate in being able to establish this arts development programme but there is still much to do as well as the continuing need for communication and coordination across the region and across the arts.”  J M Murry, Regional Executive Officer, Central Western Regional Advisory Council, report 1979

Main and gallery images from Margaret Smith.