History of the Gallery
A brief history of Prentice House.
The Grafton Regional Gallery was established in 1988 and administered by Grafton City Council as a place of arts awareness, education and support for arts practitioners. It has evolved to play an important role in building community resilience, reflecting our sense of place and telling local stories through the visual arts. As is typical of many regional galleries, the Gallery has undergone several stages of restoration and redevelopment on its current site over three decades.
During 2005 Clarence Valley Council purchased land immediately adjacent to the Gallery and the journey of planning and funding an expanded GRG began. In mid-2018 the Gallery was awarded $7.6 million in funding support from the NSW Government to complete planned physical infrastructure expansion and internal fit-out works. At the time of preparing this Plan the construction period for the expanded GRG had a flagged commencement date of late 2019 with a twelve month constructability schedule.
Prentice House: Stage 1
In 1985 Grafton City Council [now Clarence Valley Council], with assistance from the Jacaranda Art Society, purchased Prentice House in Fitzroy Street Grafton. This late Victorian style residence was designed and built in 1880. This federation style residence, designed and built in 1880 by the well known Grafton builder Alexander Fairweather, is one of Grafton’s most beautiful and prestigious structures.
The plan of the house was typical of its day in that an anteroom and consulting room were located at the front; a drawing and a dining room to one side separated by folding doors, bedrooms to the other side separated by a central hallway and the kitchen, servant’s room and pantry were located at the rear. The upper floor contained a lobby, small bedroom and a boudoir opening onto a balcony looking out on Fitzroy Street. The design of the house is unusual in having its central walls thrusting upwards, intersecting the roof, and creating the narrow first floor.
The Jacaranda Art Society (formed in 1961 with the aim of bringing contemporary art to the region) managed the Grafton Art Gallery for two years on a volunteer basis. A grant from the New South Wales Bicentennial Council enabled a restoration of the building and its conversion for use as a regional gallery including environmental and security controls. The Grafton Regional Gallery was officially opened in March 1988 with a gallery space in Prentice House, a storeroom, library, meeting room, offices and volunteer and staff room, and was there after administered by Council.
Gallery: Stage 2
Stage two was built in 1991 and included the addition of the Second Gallery and a Collection Room at the rear of Prentice House and the development of the Courtyard Cafe.
Gallery: Stage 3
Extensive additions [stage three] were completed in September 1999. The Second Gallery was converted into the Collection Room and the Main Gallery, the Loft Gallery, the Studio Space and new office spaces were constructed around the courtyard. This refurbishment and consequently its programs enabled the Gallery to offer a greater range of services to the regional community.
Gallery: Stage 4
The Gallery is currently undergoing a significant period of redevelopment. In 2018 the Gallery received $7.6 million in funding support from the NSW Government to complete major infrastructure works which will expand on-site space and deliver a reconfigured floor plan aligned with contemporary gallery operational needs and visitor expectations.
Since opening its doors, the GRG has developed into a statement cultural asset for Grafton, the region, artists and creative industry practitioners. It is the only provider of national and regional visual arts services in Clarence Valley. The Gallery is strongly supported through the Friends of the Grafton Gallery (established in 1992), The Gallery Foundation (established in 2005), Clarence Valley Council Gallery Advisory Committee; Gallery Volunteers; local and regional artists, Patrons and the community of Clarence Valley.
Image credit: Garden in front of Prentice House 2007