Arts Flashback

To celebrate Arts Victoria's 40th anniversary we've hit the archives
and uncovered some choice moments in the development of
Victoria's arts sector.

Click on the images below to view the stories and photo galleries, share them with others, and find out how Victoria grew to be the arts and cultural powerhouse it is today.

1970s

Bell-bottoms, handlebar moustaches, platform shoes, our daring approach to fashion (and facial hair) belied an era of serious social change and political drama in 1970s Australia.

We scrapped the White Australia Policy and welcomed an era of multiculturalism. Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.

We had more leisure time that ever before. Norm coaxed us off the couch with Life. Be in it and we got fit. But when we weren't out BMXing, ten-pin bowling or roller-skating, we were listening to Skyhooks and Sherbet, tuning into the new world of FM radio, and watching Number 96 on our brand new colour TVs.

Here in Victoria, a creative community of artists, craftspeople, theatre-makers and musicians were laying the foundation of the mighty independent arts sector we enjoy today.

Premier Rupert Hamer put the arts firmly on the Government's agenda with the creation of Australia's first state Ministry for the Arts. Its first priorities? Getting the construction of Southbank's Arts Centre complex moving, creating a chain of regional performing arts centres, and bringing art out into the public.

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Evan Walker with Lou Richards
Minister for the Arts Evan Walker with Victorian football legend Lou Richards launching an exhibition of footy memorabilia at the MCG, 1989. Photo: News Ltd/Newspix

1989

Evan Walker appointed Arts Minister

Soon after Melbourne's Rialto opened in October 1986, Victoria's Minister for Planning, Evan Walker, and Minister for the Arts, Race Mathews were at a function at the new building – then Melbourne's tallest. Looking out the window, Minister Walker pointed down to Southbank below. "That is sufficient legacy for us," he said, "if we are remembered for nothing else and begin to get that right."

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The development of Southbank became a key achievement of architect-turned-politician Evan Walker, who, amongst other portfolios, served as Minister for Planning from 1982 to 1986 and Minister for the Arts from 1989 to 1990.

Evan envisaged the river as a "four-poster bed" – with posts formed by Flinders Street Station and the Arts Centre to the east, and the World Trade Centre and a proposed museum at the western end.

The museum in Southbank never eventuated: although concrete had been poured and museum staff relocated to the nearby Tea House building. The Kennett Government moved the development of Melbourne Museum to Carlton Gardens and instead built the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at the Southbank site. But over the decade Southbank was transformed from an industrial wasteland into an arts and leisure destination.

"[The museum] would have completed the Southbank vision with a pedestrian passage from the Arts Centre to the museum and then on to Scienceworks in Spotswood via a boat that would go back and forth."

Both as Minister for the Arts, and in his earlier role as Minister for Planning, Evan had a vision for an integrated 'cultural village'.

The first thing he did as Arts Minister was move the Minister's office from the Old Treasury Building to where the Ministry was located in the new Australian Ballet Centre – and close to what was becoming the cultural heart of Melbourne.

Even before taking on the arts portfolio, Evan was instrumental in introducing a public art allocation in building and construction projects.

"A project that I took some pride in was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground – there was a 0.5 per cent of total construction budget allocated for public art. It took a national turn – we were able to convince various states to adopt this commitment. Eventually it wasn't just public buildings and construction, but also private developers applying the allocation. That pleased me. [Arts Minister at the time] Race [Mathews] came round the Cabinet table during a break and leaned over my shoulder, saying 'I'm having trouble getting this going' and I was able to manage it for him."

Minister Walker was also passionate about arts training – and the importance of involvement in the arts from an early age. After leaving politics Evan continued work in this area as a member of the Council of the Victorian College of the Arts, serving as its President from 1995 to 1999.

Evan fondly recalls his productive working relationship with Director of the Ministry for the Arts, Paul Clarkson.

"Paul was the key to all that was happening in the arts. He was such a cultured, sophisticated, elegant person and seemed to know everyone. He was a sort of beacon, an immovable rock – a true public servant who served his masters very well. It was an inspired appointment [by Norman Lacy ]. A different type as a director of an arts agency."

Evan recalls the day he resigned from Cabinet in 1990, after 14 months in the arts portfolio.

"I went to tell Paul [Clarkson] what I'd done and he slumped over his chair and said 'Oh God, not another minister!'"

His last act as Minister for the Arts was committing $500,000 to Heide Museum of Modern Art for an extension to the gallery.

After leaving politics Evan returned to architecture and academia as Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne. He retired in 2000.

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