This poster by Dianna Wells promotes this newly establish ‘Community Art Centre’ at Gorman House. Previously a Commonwealth hostel, the building in 1981 was opened to the artists with a focus on community arts: ‘arts had once been the privilege of the elite, but the community could now make contributions and stimulate audience reaction’1. These studios became a hub of creative activity with ACME Ink screen-print studio and Australian Council for the Arts Gallery.
1 "Gorman House's extra $50,000" in The Canberra Times (ACT: 1926 - 1995) 16 September 1981: p7.
This work forms part of Mandy Martin’s poster collection that she gifted to Canberra Museum and Gallery in 1998. In her role as Lecturer in the Printmaking Department at the Canberra School of Art, Mandy Martin brought both practical knowledge and an infectious, fearless spirit for making screen-prints to a generation of artists only a few years younger than herself. Battling against a perception that it was a commercial process with application only in community arts, Martin struck initial resistance to the idea that screen-printing was a valid medium to be taught at art school.
With limited employment pathways out of art school, Martin helped facilitate the establishment of ACME Ink through the shifting of her print table to Gorman House in Braddon in 1981. In the cramped conditions of the heritage building Julia Church, Mark Denton, Kath Walters and Alison Alder spent a frenetic few years making posters and prints for causes and events as well as their own creative endeavours. These posters were unleashed on Canberra’s unsuspecting community with its’ carefully planned streets, generating instant attention for a small art community eager to gain visibility and activate change. As commercial galleries were initially reluctant to show their work, this circle of artists contributed to the establishment of Bitumen River Gallery in a car park at the Manuka shops, which continues today as a venue for Canberra Contemporary Art Space. Martin’s print table remains in use at Megalo Print Studio in Kingston.
ACME Ink. had its genesis in the relocation in 1981 of my screenprinting equipment to a separate studio at Gorman House, Braddon ACT. An informal screenprinting cooperative developed; many of its members were graduated students or staff from the Canberra School of Art. The prints they produced addressed social issues and events associated with Canberra…I formed this archive as a personal reference collection.
- Mandy Martin, Donation Statement 1998
487 x 744 mm (image) 501 x 758 mm (sheet)
Canberra Museum and Gallery, donated through Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Mandy Martin 1998