Women artists are in the spotlight at Manning Regional Art Gallery.
The latest exhibition, Women Artists from the Collection, features about 30 works curated from MidCoast Council's collection, some dating as far back as the 1950s.
"This was a pop-up because of COVID-19," explained gallery director Rachel Piercy.
"There's been a lot of rescheduling and programming.
"We're lucky we have a collection we can utilise and still have a fantastic exhibition," she added.
The Women Artists from the Collection exhibition is a diverse range of works from 1954 to the present day.
"It's mainly about the women and showcasing significant women and art by significant women in the collection," Rachel said.
Some works haven't been on show in the 22 years assistant gallery director Jane Hosking has worked at the gallery.
We're lucky we have a collection we can utilise and still have a fantastic exhibition.Rachel Piercy, Manning Regional Art Gallery
"Some have never seen the light of day," Jane said.
Rachel said the exhibition is just a "slice" of works by women artists in the collection.
Among them are works by women who have won three of the gallery's four Naked and Nude Art Prizes; Wendy Sharpe, Dagmar Cyrulla and Laura Matthews.
Another is by Jocelyn Maughan who created her Black Head Beach artwork as part of The Wall Project, one of the gallery's programs that is currently unable to take place because of COVID-19.
"She used people's faces and bodies," said Rachel, who along with Jane added there has been many tears by people who have seen this one on show.
"People are emotional about it," Jane said. "We can't do these things at the moment and there's also the warmth of it."
The work came to the collection when it was donated to Friends of the Gallery and passed on.
Donations of artworks are often how pieces come to be in the collection and a national Cultural Gifts program means donors can receive a tax deduction for their donation.
Some works in the collection are acquired through the Frank Saxby Bequest, which was a significant local contribution in the 1980s.
Jane said they are due to make another acquisition with the funds in the near future.
In the past 20 years, Jane said council has only purchased two artworks for the collection.
One is on show in this exhibition and is a painting of aviator Nancy Bird Walton by Julie Slavin, originally painted for the Manning Valley Women of Note exhibition in 2002.
"The collection has multiple levels of themes," said Rachel
She said it includes the work of high quality and nationally significant artists - "Women, nudes, the local environment, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander."
The coronavirus has meant many changes at the gallery and has also brought uncertainty, even devastation to the creative industries.
Not all touring shows have stopped but many have been postponed.
The collection has multiple levels of themes.Rachel Piercy, Manning Regional Art Gallery.
The gallery is working to support artists.
"We can't have our public programs and events or openings," Rachel said.
The gallery team has embraced the ability to connect with people digitally, utilising social media, their website and Zoom to create more opportunities for engagement.
"Not doing workshops, tours and events, school groups or after hours activities, the attendance numbers have shifted from physical to digital."
Women Artists from the Collection is on show until September 20.
The gallery, located in Macquarie Street, Taree, is currently open Tuesday to Saturday (closed Sundays for now) 10am to 5pm.
Rachel said while the gallery isn't doing public programs, all their peak bodies at council have been fantastic and really supportive.
"We are being COVID safe and have everything in place."
History of the Council Collection
The history of the collection begins before the regional gallery existed, and is a testament to the residents of Taree who are passionate about the arts. The first local government initiated acquisitive art prize in this area was conducted by the Taree Municipal Council in the old Council Chambers on the corner of Albert and Manning Streets in 1954.
This event was initiated by the late Mary Hunter OAM, with strong support from the then town clerk, the late Clyde Powditch MBE.
The collection has grown into a strong portfolio of more than 320 works, which is a significant cultural asset for the Mid Coast community.
The majority of works since 1988 have been donated to the collection through the Frank Saxby Bequest, the Friends of the Manning Regional Art Gallery via the acquisitive prize of the biennial Manning Art Prize, personal donations of artworks from community members and donations by artists.
The Cultural Gifts program also encourages gifts of culturally significant items go to the public art galleries, museums and libraries by offering donors a tax deduction for the market value of the gift.