HIGH TEA: Art club stalwarts June Alexander, Irene Nowell, Pat Jenkins, Joan Marshall, Paula Braund, Anne McPherson and Isobel Wingfield commemorate 50 years of the club's first meeting.
HIGH TEA: Art club stalwarts June Alexander, Irene Nowell, Pat Jenkins, Joan Marshall, Paula Braund, Anne McPherson and Isobel Wingfield commemorate 50 years of the club's first meeting. Adam Hourigan

Arts club still going strong after 50 years

LAST Wednesday was 50 years to the day that the first meeting of the original Lower Clarence Art and Crafts Association (initially known as The Art Club) was held after Maclean Rotary Club encouraged its formation for the benefit of the community.

To celebrate that Lower Clarence milestone, a spectacular high tea was served at the group’s traditional home since 1993, the Ferry Park Gallery in Maclean.

Among the 50 or so invited guests was a handful of the “originals”, some of whom attended that first meeting in 1966, others joining the group shortly after its constitution was presented, and many who spent the next few decades driving it to be the artistic community powerhouse it is today.

LCACA president Jenny Thomas addressed the guests who were seated around tables covered in ornate china trios and tiered cake plates laden with exquisite sweet, petite creations. The surroundings were further enhanced by the locally produced artworks the gallery is famous for.

“There are not too many organisations that survive so well financially with the stability and support from the community as this one,” Ms Thomas said.

“It has been built on the hard work, commitment and belief of its members who have worked hard to make it what it is today.”

Ms Thomas said money raised over the years resulted in huge achievements like the Ferry Park Gallery.

“They sold lamingtons, had fancy dress parties and had lots of fun but they worked their guts out,” she said.

That resulted in about $150,000, when pooled with federal, state and local council support, to build the place that has seen thousand and thousands of locals and tourists pass through its creative doors.

Ms Thomas mentioned tireless workers who were “no longer with us, like Phyllis Austin”, the namesake of the association’s memorial trophy and “who fought hard for Ferry Park and would not take no for an answer”.

“We still have people like that today as we face the association’s next phase in the new highway.

“This is the best spread we can put on so enjoy old friendships and feel proud for what you have done.”

Founding member Isobel Wingfield was the vice-president in 1966 and wasn’t at all surprised the organisation was still going strong.

“Naturally we knew it would be here. We are all still members,” Mrs Wingfield said, gesturing at the ladies sitting next to her, “and on committees five decades later, although I still haven’t learned to paint yet,” she joked.


  • April 1966: Formation of The Art Club by steering committee which drew up constitution and presented at public meeting in the Maclean Civic Centre. Members continued to meet in their homes and on location, occasionally engaging tutors and working towards an open exhibition in December that year.
  • 1970: The Art Club convened in the Old Literary Institute Hall in Yamba (School of Arts).
  • 1972: The Art Club was renamed the Lower Clarence Art & Crafts Group due to growing interest in the community for crafts. Spinners and weavers, and pottery classes joined the group.
  • 1980: The old hall was demolished for the Yamba Library and community hall which didn’t incorporate the group so it moved to the Old Tea room ktichen in the Maclean Showground with its chicken wire walls and no insulation. Maclean Apex helped refurbish the space so it could became the club room and a pottery kiln was installed. Membership continued to grow and the space proved too small for activities.
  • 1986: A deputation of LCACA committee members gained interest from Maclean Council to support a vision to build a Community Arts Centre.
  • 1987: New constitution and group was incorporated. Named the Lower Clarence Arts & Crafts Association. This enabled umbrella protection for membership of interest groups which now included: arts, pottery, spinning and weaving, community choir, writing and poetry group, junior performing artists, patchwork and quilting group and Amateur Theatre Group.
  • The vision and effort to obtain a building for a local art space became huge fundraising venture for members. Activities included art auctions, regular market stall, demonstration days, film screenings, Devonshire teas, wine and cheese tastings, barbecues, bus trips, bush picnics, ferry boat luncheons, opera company performances, garage sales, lamington drives, gold days, cabaret nights, raffles with prizes donated by members and the proceeds from annual open exhibition.
  • 1993: Members raised $50,000 which wasn’t enough so federal and state grants were sought and matched LCACA’s funds for arts space. Council also joined forces with LCACA to help building the Ferry Park Complex to incoporate an arts space.


  • Continual Open Competitive Exhibitions with arts, pottery, spinning and weaving, patchwork and quilting, photography and other crafts including junior sections throughout the 50 years have been staged within 11 local halls and schools.
  • 2000: The annual exhibition was upgraded towards a festival exhibition with many more inclusions at the Maclean Showground.
  • 2006: The exhibition was downsized and stage in local schools.
  • 2016: The 51st Annual Open Competitive Exhibition will return to the Maclean Showground with a vision to work towards a successful Clarence River Arts Festival.


  • 1984: It was discussed at a meeting of LCACA to start a collection of works to be selected from the annual exhibitions. A vision was towards a future regional gallery in Maclean. The association continued to collect fine arts for 10 years.
  • 1994-2003: Maclean Shire Council mayors and general managers selected works from the exhibitions to add to the collection.
  • 2004: After amalgamation of Clarence Valley councils, the mayor and director of Grafton Regional Gallery select works for the collection that is now managed by Grafton gallery. About 40 items are in the collection today.
  • 2016: To commemorate the Association’s 50th anniversary, the Grafton Regional Gallery will be hosting the LCACA Jubilee exhibition Artists and Landscapes of the Lower Clarence from May 11 to July 2 in the main gallery featuring all-new works from LCACA members.

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