The Hawkesbury Community Arts Workshop was started in 1978 when the Hawkesbury Agricultural College, now the University of Western Sydney Hawkesbury was approached for the use of a building to set up a community arts workshop.
A management committee is elected representing members, tutors, university staff and students.
Funding comes from membership fees, workshop fees and the occasional grant. Our members participate in running the various activities of the workshop.
The Hawkesbury Community Arts Workshop (HCAW) was officially opened on March 31, 1978 at Hawkesbury Agricultural College (HAC), Richmond campus, (now Western Sydney University, Hawkesbury campus) by Sir Philip Baxter, Vice Chancellor of the University of New South Wales and Chairman of the Sydney Opera House Trust and Graham Swain, Principal of HAC. At the time Sir Philip and Graham were appointed, co-patrons of the Workshop, a role Graham still holds today.
A well-known local artist Kevin Oxley first approached the the Principal of HAC, Graham Swain, regarding the availability of redundant College buildings where a Workshop to be known as Hawkesbury Community Arts Workshop could be established. It was proposed that the artists in the Workshop would be available to the community at large as well as to staff and students.
Graham Swain welcomed and supported the idea, as he wished to have the community more actively involved with the College. The facility was set up in the Feedshed Gallery, (building K3) and in the former Wool Classing Instruction Shed, (building K13), the latter which HCAW still occupies today. The buildings which the Workshop occupied were at first renovated by volunteer labour from members within the HCAW, who generally carried out the work themselves. Fred Braat, a well-known printmaker made a huge contribution establishing the initial infrastructure of buildings for their new purposes.
The Workshop, from the beginning, elected a board of management representing members, tutors, university staff and students. A lease was signed with HAC whereby the HCAW paid an annual peppercorn rent and met the costs of the services, electricity and water and was expected to reasonably maintain the internal building structures.
All the facilities and their maintenance and repairs were funded by the Workshop commissions from classes and exhibitions and a lot of voluntary work from students, members and tutors. In 1988, the HCAW received a grant of $12,000 from the Heritage Conservation Fund to assist with the restoration of the former Wool Classing Instruction Shed. These repairs included substantial work in repairing white ant damage to the roof structure of the building.
The original aim of the Workshop was to offer total freedom and allow participants to create anything they liked under the guidance of professional artists and craftspersons. Its founder and first Director, Kevin Oxley was reputed to have staffed these premises 7 days a week and most hours of the day in its early years.
Since its inception the Workshop has continued its original Charter, encouraging the arts by establishing and administering a non-profit, self-supporting arts/craft workshop. In 2017 HCAW signed a licence agreement, enabling it to continue to occupy two buildings on the University’s Hawkesbury campus. The original Workshop in building K13 continues to house kilns, pottery wheels, and print-making facilities which are accessible to its members and the public via workshops, groups and classes in art making practices with talented tutors to guide them. Regular weekly tuition in building K13 is provided for various disability groups. The original Workshop also houses the administration office of the HCAW, which provides a library and photocopying facilities. HCAW is run by volunteers and is self-funded with membership fees, commissions, and grants from the NSW Government and other organisations such as Bendigo Bank and Club Grants enabling the purchase of new kilns and facilities.
The HCAW also utilises the Piggery Lane Studios and Gallery on Hawkesbury campus to give local artists the opportunity to rent space to further their artistic endeavours. Artists working within this building and all members of HCAW have a permanent gallery display and selling area. Current artists in residence are Sharron Whittington, Shelly Whittington, Kym Morris, Malcolm Robertson, Marian Wilcox and Jenny Lloyd.
The buildings are in use most days and weekends and a few evenings each week. Current courses and groups include watercolour, pottery, painting, drawing, creative craft, disability groups, portrait, sculpture, printmaking and a successful life drawing group formed in 2001, which was first facilitated by Maggie Kable and currently by Malcolm Robertson. Guest tutors at the Workshop include Allan Somerville, Sue Bellantonio, Greg Hansell, Shadee Salim, Pamela Powell and Cherry Hood.
HCAW has a growing membership offering a variety of teaching and learning activities on Hawkesbury campus, providing a congenial space for anyone who would like to avail themselves of the facilities.
The HCAW is active in the wider community with reciprocal membership with other art organisations overlapping with Macquarie Towns Art Society, Hawkesbury Artists and Artisans Trail, Purple Noon Gallery, University of the Third Age and Hawkesbury Regional Gallery.