ART LOVERS will be able to trot along to the 2023 Packsaddle fundraiser a little earlier than usual in 2023, with the event opening on September 8.
Held at the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM), the change in timing of the event has been a challenge, but packsaddlers have changed their holiday and travel plans to be able to fit in the essential gallery visits to ensure a good range of works will be on show from various Sydney galleries.
"These include trusted favourites like Utopia Art Sydney, which give us access to Aboriginal works direct from desert communities and King on William, which is home to venerable artists like Elisabeth Cummings and Guy Warren, as well as new galleries who have agreed to exhibit with us for the first time, such as Studio A, which provides professional development to artists with disability," said packsaddler Glenda Kupczyk-Romanczuk.
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"The artists supported in this studio have achieved national and international recognition and the pieces we have selected include work by Archibald finalist Daniel Kim."
In 2023 the Packsaddle fundraiser will celebrate its 38th birthday, and with just one exception, the group has held a selling exhibition for NERAM every year since 1985.
"This achievement has only been possible with the enthusiastic support of two groups - the artists and galleries who submit works for sale on commission, and the people of Armidale and the region who come and buy year after year," said Glenda.
The idea for an annual exhibition came from a small group of women artists, who were all keen horsewomen who enjoyed painting together, inspiring and criticising each other's work. In the days of the Summer Schools at the University of New England they attended schools with people such as John Olsen and Stanislav Rapotec.
The women, most notably June Atherton, Pat Elkin, Benoni Pearson and Beverley Wright, ran a co-operative gallery in Armidale selling their own work and works by major artists from further afield. After a couple of years with successful openings, they had to admit that Armidale could not support a full-time commercial gallery. They decided instead to use the many important contacts they had made with artists in an annual fundraiser to support the newly built NERAM.
The first Packsaddle exhibitions were held in the sitting-room at "Packsaddle", the Armidale home of Beverley and Owen Wright, hence the name. The sell-out exhibitions at "Packsaddle" soon outgrew that space. Next the Council Chambers were used - with the caveat that no marks could be made on the walls. Paintings were stacked on the floor and hung on temporary screens borrowed from the Tech. Pat Elkin recalls: "It looked more like a disposal sale than anything, but the paintings were first-rate and we sold well".
Then the director of NERAM (Joe Eisenberg) offered space there and help from the staff. At the museum, first one gallery then two were devoted to the ever-expanding exhibition. Since the early 90s, Packsaddle has opened with a Friday night party in October and hundreds of people have browsed and bought over the next two weeks of the fundraiser.
The Packsaddle committee currently has eight members, with founder Pat Elkin, the patron.
"Our aims have not changed - we try to educate and enthuse the public of New England by exhibiting a range of limited editions prints, paintings, ceramics and sculptures," said Glenda.
"We offer works by nationally renowned artists alongside young and emerging artists. This means we can offer works in a wide price range so that everyone can find something they like and can afford."
Packsaddle women work to provide funds for acquisitions and for conservation of the collections. The group has donated more than 60 paintings and sculptures by nationally recognised artists such as Elisabeth Cummings, Grace Cossington-Smith, Angus Nivison and Mareea Gazzard.
"In 2012 we initiated the acquisition of Margaret Olley's Yellow Room Triptych, which is now part of the Hinton Collection and which led to a long-term benefaction from the Margaret Olley Trust," said Glenda.
"We have contributed over $45,000 to NERAM's Adopt an Artwork program, supporting ongoing conservation work on the Hinton and Coventry Collections.
"We funded the Packsaddle Artist Studio, where art classes are regularly held, along with the adjoining accommodation for visiting artists. We have funded improvements in the lighting system and the hanging systems and purchased printing presses.
"Each year we fund the Packsaddle Lecture series, which brings expert speakers in different disciplines relating to the NERAM collections. The list goes on and on ... and so it must, for NERAM needs and deserves all the support we can give it. We hope to continue for many years to come."
Exhibition viewing starts from 5pm, with opening remarks by artist, Tim Storrier. The bell will ring (to signal that selling has started) at 6pm.
The Packsaddle 2023 Fundraising Exhibition will be on display at NERAM until September 24.
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