History of Watt Space
a look at the beginnings of Watt Space through to the present day... a catalogue essay by Luke Johnston, Fiona Lee and Claire Parker from 20:20 Celebrating 20 years of Watt Space 1989 - 2009
a speech by Jacquie Henderson, August 23, 1996
from the beginning in 1989
1. Early 1989
George Drewery, Jacquie Henderson and Bryan Bulley, art students of the Hunter Institute of Higher Education approached the Students Representative Council of the Hunter Institute with a proposal to establish a student art gallery in Newcastle.
28 September 1989 was the opening of Watt's Happening, the inaugural exhibition of Watt Space, the Hunter Institute Student Art Gallery at 11 Watt Street, Newcastle. Special guest William Bowmore opened the exhibition and made the first purchases, a painting by David Middlebrook and a ceramic urn by John Cliff.
3. 1989 - 1990
A Student Management Committee of President, George Drewery, Secretary Jacquie Henderson and Treasurer Simon Alberry run Watt Space for the first 12 months with financial support from the Student Representative Council of the Hunter Institute of Higher Education and the assistance of the staff of the School of Visual and Performing Arts headed by Graham Gilchrist.
In April Pippa Robinson is appointed as part-time director and exhibitions officer of Watt Space, and a formal Watt Space Management Committee of three students, three staff members of the Institute and three SRC representatives was established.
Watt Space comes under auspices of the UoN Services Limited after the amalgamation of the University of Newcastle with the Hunter Institute of Higher Education in 1989 is formalised. The Union is the major sponsor of the gallery with the Faculty of Art and Design also contributing to the operating costs of the gallery.
Watt Space expands with the addition of three new exhibition spaces at Watt Street, acquiring the use of adjoining rooms in the building. Exhibitions increase to close to forty each year displaying the work of over two hundred student artists. The Australian Graphic Design Association toured its inaugural Biennial Award exhibition to Watt Space.
The UoN Services Limited acquires the lease of section of the ground floor of University House (formerly NESCA House) on the corner of King & Auckland Streets, Newcastle and John Broughton, CEO of the Union, suggests that Watt Space relocates to the marble entrance halls within the building. The student committee of Mary-anne Taylor, Glyn Thomas and David Love and Director Pippa Robinson are much more attracted to the old NESCA printery with its loading dock, pit and storage areas and suggest plans for the refurbishment of this area into 5 separate gallery spaces. These are developed and carried out by the Union over several months.
Watt Space has also acquired an office on campus, in the gymnasium building.
The final exhibitions at Watt Space in Watt Street featuring work by Lili-Ann Berg, Belinda Street, Julie Tilse, Anna Ephraim and Marianne Ireland close on 19 August.
On Friday 23 August 1996 Watt Space at University House opens with the eclectics, a group show by VAMPS, the Visual Arts, Multi-media and Performance Society of the University of Newcastle. The opening night featured music, opera, poetry, performance and was opened by Su Cruickshank.
Watt Space hosts the 6th Annual Student Acquisitive Art Prize, formerly held in the Shortland Union, later in the year. This annual prize is sponsored by the Universiity of Newcastle Union Limited with total prize-money of $2,500.
The Union makes the position of Director of Watt Space full-time.
Watt Decade, curated by Watt Space Director Penny Metham, is exhibited at the gallery from 29 September-19 October, celebrating the first ten years of the gallery's life with the works of fifteen current artists who took their first steps as developing artists at Watt Space.
The artists are: Samantha Arnull, Peter Barnes, Sandra Burgess, Sandra Minter Caldwell, Emil Goh, Martin Hodge, Chris Langlois, David Middlebrook, Darrin Morgan. Faye Neilsen, Niomi Sands, Natalie Sherring, Warrren Taylor, Dan Zero, Vera Zolumovski.
The accompanying catalogue included essays by Ross Woodrow, Pippa Robinson, Nick Mitzevich, Jody Watts, Apo Wu and Ian Burns which reflected their involvement and observations of Watt Space since 1989.
Watt Space is funded by the UoN Services Limited and supported by the School of Drama, Fine Art and Music at the University of Newcastle. All associated images and information copyright © the artists, Watt Space & the University of Newcastle, Australia. Building images © Roger Hanley