The Artist-in-Residence Program—a Legacy for All

In 1985, Brisbane Girls Grammar School offered its first Artist-in-Residence Program for Visual Art. The format was to invite an artist of renown to come to the School to talk to students, and workshop and guide their work in creative collaboration. Furthermore, the artist would undertake an artistic project of their own that would remain in the School as a legacy of their practice.

At the time, Principal, Dr Judith Hancock, raised the idea with key benefactors of the School, Dr Cathryn Mittelheuser AM (1949) and the late Margaret Mittelheuser AM (1947). The Mittelheuser sisters, as they are fondly referred to, are former students of the School who shared a deep love of the arts and made immeasurable contributions to Queensland’s cultural life.

From 1985 until 1989, the Artist-in-Residence Program was active with three artists contributing to student learning and the School’s Art Collection. New York-based Australian abstract artist, Virginia Cuppaidge, accepted the invitation to be the inaugural Brisbane Girls Grammar School Artist in Residence. The painting Virginia created, Terra Firma Light, was inspired by student ideas and mixed a series of geometrical shapes floating in colour fields, giving energy, movement and light to the painting.

'Terra Firma Light' by Virginia Cuppaidge

Sculptor, Jan King, visited BGGS in 1988 and gifted her abstract sculpture in steel, Fandango, to the School. The artwork still lives in the School gardens, in Gehrmann Lane. What many observers found interesting about this fluid work is that the artist saw the spaces to be as important as the pieces of steel: a magical fusion of hard and soft, solid and transparent.

'Fandango' by Jan King

The following year, artist and alumna, Ruth Benson (1951), was an Artist in Residence for four weeks. Benson created a large ceramic work using the inspiration of the transient sand patterns to create the moulds that give her work such a distinctive look. The work she produced is a beautifully meditative and tactile piece.

Ceramic work, 'Untitled', by Ruth Benson (1951)

It was not until 2009 that an artist returned to the School. Alistair Noble created a mix-media triptych, painted in oil, to be accompanied by music he composed. Noble came to the School on the recommendation of BGGS Art Teacher, Ms Bronwyn McKean, and was funded by the Creative Arts Faculty.

Panel from Alistair Noble’s 'Troubled Current'

It was alumna and former member of the Board of Trustees, Ms Lesley Bryant (1963), who funded the 2013 Artist in Residence, Krishna Nahow. Nahow’s work is inspired by her Vanuatan heritage and the legacy of South Sea Islander slavery in colonial Australia. She created a series of 12 digital prints on watercolour paper as part of her ongoing series called ‘Blakbirding’. The imagery, often accompanied by text, has an ethereal quality as though the people and their history have been blurred and partially erased by time.

From the digital series ‘Blakbirding’ by Krishna Nahow

In 2020, plans for an Artist in Residence were unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19. The School hopes to introduce the program again in the near future to enhance creativity and learning for all students and staff.

Mrs Lorraine Thornquist (Williams, 1967)
Manager of Collections