A Kuring-gai story

Janet Ollevou in the exhibition space. Photo by Shane Lo.

Janet Ollevou in the exhibition space. Photo by Shane Lo.

In summary: 
  • UTS Art Collection: A Kuring-gai story is on display in the Tower foyer until 25 May
  • The exhibition includes artworks, from the likes of Ken Unsworth, Margaret Preston, Sidney Nolan and even former staff member Margery Hourihan, that have now found a new home in Ultimo

Take a tour through the history of UTS’s Kuring-gai campus – from its beginnings as a teachers’ college, to near-destruction in a catastrophic bushfire and the unforgettable green carpet – in UTS Art Collection: A Kuring-gai story.

UTS may have said goodbye to the leafy Lindfield campus but a treasure trove of archival photos, scrapbooks and art spanning more than 40 years of the Kuring-gai site remains.

Aside from the iconicly bold architectural and interior design choices, the Kuring-gai campus also featured vibrant artworks from the likes of Ken Unsworth, Margaret Preston and Sidney Nolan (to name only a few). The colourful sculptures and striking canvases held their own within the hard concrete and ‘New Brutalism’ design of the campus, and are remembered by many as an integral part of the Kuring-gai experience.

Today, these artworks have found a new home in Ultimo, and a small selection are proudly exhibited in the Tower foyer for staff, students, alumni and the community.

Exhibition Curator Janet Ollevou says, “It’s been brilliant watching the City campus evolve, and how beautifully the artworks from Kuring-gai sit in the new buildings and spaces here.

“The history of a collection doesn’t end when the artworks move; it continues on as new stories and experiences accumulate. I love being able to see artworks from our Collection in a new space as they circulate across campus. It’s like seeing an old friend but with a new perspective.”

Along with these artworks, the exhibition celebrates the stunning bushland oasis of Kuring-gai and architect David Turner’s purpose-built campus for teaching and learning. Turner’s vision to create a campus that worked with the natural landscape is perfectly realised in the cluster of buildings that appear to spill down the hill, incorporating a number of internal courtyards to bring the bush inside.

Kuring-gai alumni will recognise stories and images from the former campus, and others may even find memories in a timeline display encompassing the original Teachers College in Balmain, Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) and other annexes (including Orange Grove and North Sydney), the Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education and its transfer to UTS.

Nestled in one corner of the exhibition space is a testament to the campus’ community spirit – a ceramic vase made by Margery Hourihan. Ollevou explains, “Hourihan was a staff member who was quite active as a representative on the council at Kuring-gai – but it just happens that she was also a very talented potter!

“This vase was her gift to the university when she retired. It’s a beautiful piece because it represents her memory of the 1994 bushfire and shows how the event impacted her and the Kuring-gai community.”

Along with the vase, visitors will discover a diverse collection of unexpected pieces such as an exquisite textile work by Finnish artist Uhra Simberg-Ehrlström and a historically significant Albert Namatjira print which were often used as aides for training student teachers at the campus.

It’s a fitting way to acknowledge the rich legacy of Kuring-gai and welcome staff and students to the new City campus.

UTS Art Collection: A Kuring-gai story is on display in the Tower foyer until 25 May.

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