FUAM was formally established in 1978 by resolution of the Council of Flinders University to house an expanding collection of art, which since the first year of undergraduate teaching at the University in 1966, was being actively acquired to complement courses in Fine Arts. The founding of the Museum built on the efforts of academic staff, Robert Smith (inaugural Fine Arts Lecturer), Alan Flashtig (Head of Fine Arts) and Donald Johnson (Architectural Historian), who designed the Print Gallery at the Flinders University site in the early 1970s, and Donald Brook (foundation Professor of Fine Arts) and Amzad H. Mian (Curator) who in 1974-75 oversaw its construction.
In 1975, reflecting a broader remit of the Arts area, the then discipline of Fine Arts became Visual Arts and the Print Gallery was rebranded the Art Museum.
From the outset, collecting centred on prints by European masters but quickly grew to encompass prints and paintings by non-indigenous Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other indigenous peoples. This expansion reflected a widening of teaching interests (significantly, Flinders was the first Australian University to incorporate topics on Aboriginal art) and burgeoning activities undertaken by the Flinders Visual Art.
Set up in 1979 under the management of Brian Callen, the Visual Arts Studio taught a range of techniques to students undertaking the Visual Arts major and provided an on-campus centre for informal creative art. Callen, a graduate of the South Australian School of Art, had a particular interest in contemporary South Australian art practice and was encouraged to add to the Art Museum’s holdings works by local artists including Ann Newmarch and Barbara Hanrahan. Callen was also responsible for the design of all FUAM catalogues and posters during his 15 years at Flinders.
The Visual Arts Studio was integral to the FUAM Artist in Residence Program, an initiative of JVS Megaw founded with the encouragement of Robert Edwards, then Chair of the Aboriginal Arts Board, and John Kean, then resident art adviser of Papunya Tula Artists, and the support of grants from the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies and the Visual Arts Discipline of Flinders University.
The Program involved a series of short-term residencies for Indigenous artists of diverse backgrounds that took place between 1979 and 1992. Participants included David Corby (1979), Turkey Tolson (1979), Bede and Francine Tungatalum (1980), David Malangi (1982), Banduk Marika (1986), Byron Pickett (1986), Kunwingie Kerry Giles (1988 and 1992), Peter Dabah (1990), Mitch Dunnett Jnr (1992-3) and Kunyi June McInerney (1992), who worked under the guidance of Callen. As well as contributing to the development of FUAM’s ATSI collection (works produced during the residencies were purchased at a price determined by the artist), the residencies lent substantial encouragement and support to Indigenous arts practice.
In the mid 1990s rationalization of teaching programs at the University saw the end of Visual Arts and closure of the Visual Arts Studio in what by then was the Discipline of Visual Arts and Archaeology. Responsibility of the Art Museum subsequently shifted from the School of Humanities to the Office of the Vice Chancellor with increased activity focused on community engagement through public programs presented at the City Gallery.
First established in 1997 in Grote Street before relocating to the State Library of South Australia on North Terrace in 2003, the City Gallery made a substantial contribution to the cultural fabric of the State until its closure in June 2018.
From 2019 a dedicated gallery, co-located with the Art Museum at the University’s Bedford Park campus, will present diverse and inclusive curatorial projects that provoke enquiry and support innovative collaborations between regional and global partners.
FUAM maintains strong links with teaching programs on campus and actively promotes its collections for teaching and research. The Collections Database is currently being redeveloped with the support of the Gordon Darling Foundation to improve accessibility. The richness and diversity of FUAM holdings presents many opportunities to support the delivery of subjects across many different Schools including those of Education, Humanities, International Studies, Psychology and Social Studies. The Art Museum is working closely with Yunggorendi, First Nations Centre for Higher Education & Research and through a formal affiliation with the Adelaide Central School of Art is engaged with emerging and established artists.
Previously, day-to-day operations of the Art Museum were overseen by the Curator, Amzad H. Mian (1973-1994) and ensuing Directors, Louise Dauth (1994-1995), Doreen Mellor (1996-1999) and Gail Greenwood (1999-2009).
The Art Museum at Bedford Park, 1975
The Art Museum at Bedford Park, 1975