Throughout 1973 well known artist Frank de Silva tutored artists in the local Aspley area. It became apparent there were many people in the district who were interested in Art. For months the thought of getting an art Group going was very much in the minds of those involved in Frank’s tutorials.

Vyvien Baillie, of Purdy Street, Aspley, put a small notice in the paper calling for interested people to ring her and about 25 people answered. It was a pleasant surprise for her to have 17 people, with apologies from a further six, at the inaugural meeting at her home, on Sunday September 26th 1973.

At that meeting thirteen people formed the Aspley Art Group, two of the absent joining soon after, making a very small nucleus on which to build a good art Group.

The objectives of the Group were decided upon and a general vote passed the following:-

  • To further our knowledge and interest in art,
  • To hold organized field trips for the Group,
  • To hold an annual exhibition of members' paintings at the Aspley shopping Centre,
  • To have a maximum membership of 50 adults.

At that time new members needed to be nominated by a member, seconded by two other members and put to a vote at a general meeting. The nomination fee was $3 and the annual membership fee was $2.

The first office bearers, who happened to be sitting side by side on a stool, were Vyvien Baillie (President), Lola Newman (Secretary) and Lindsay Francis (Treasurer). Later, Jack Ross became the first Vice President. Frank de Silva, always very interested in and helpful towards the Group, accepted the offer to be the Patron of the Group. Thea de Silva was made an honorary member.

It was decided to hold a monthly meeting and the only suitable time was the first Thursday of each month at 7:3Opm. Vyvien’s home in Aspley and then Joan Wood’s home were the meeting venues throughout the first year.

Ideas were submitted, the main one being that the Group hold art exhibitions on the footpath outside the shops at the Aspley Shopping Centre. Everyone agreed to the idea and permission to go ahead was promptly obtained, screens hired and delivered. The first exhibition was a two day "Sidewalk Show" held on the Bank of New South Wales corner, Gympie Road Aspley on 27th. April, 1974, a very wet day but people still came out to look at the 103 paintings on show. The result was very pleasing, ten members sold 20 pictures for a total of $573 (1974 dollars equivalent to approximately $5,000 in 2016).The 10% commission came to $57.30, craft space rented out added $12 to this for a total of $69.30. $24 delivery for screens left the Group with a gain of $34.30, quite a help in those days. The Group held a couple of Sidewalk Shows each year until 1989 and was thrilled to see how successful the exhibitions were, which people travelled many miles to look at and buy from.

Frank de Silva supported the Group and gave Group members a lot of confidence in starting off on the right foot. He was the first of many tutors, his fee $10 he donated right back to the Group. The services of many well-known and talented artists were also called upon. Ken Wenzel was a solid supporter, ever willing to take members on field trips and help whenever possible. Over the years Ken had donated well over 40 workshops to the Group at no cost to the Group. Considering the price of tutors nowadays runs into many hundreds of dollars, this is a very valuable contribution to the Group.

The Group started off with nil in the till, originally kept afloat by a Government Grant and in-house raffles, for which members took turns to bring the prize. This continued for a couple of years and boosted the very delicate bank balance. With the growing balance display screens were purchased after a couple of years and member Mal Freeman took over the storing and delivery of them.

A permanent home had still not been found at the end of the first year but in September 1974 the Group was extremely lucky to be offered "Mahaca" by the Campbell Family and the first meeting held there by the Group was on 3rd October 1974. In 1910 the Campbell family settled on the western banks of Albany Creek and established a small crops and dairy farm. By 1915 the emphasis was on egg production and by 1957 the enterprise had grown to one of Queensland's largest poultry farms with "Mahaca Day Old Chick" exports to many parts of the world. Matt Campbell Snr. was heavily involved in the poultry industry and like sons Fred and Matt played a significant role in local community affairs. In 1964 the farm closed and, during the 60's, Mahaca each Saturday night became the party venue for hundreds of teenagers. Top Brisbane bands played into the early hours and many thousands of dollars were raised for charity. The old hatchery affectionately became known as "The Barn".

The Aspley Art Group and many other Groups used Mahaca as a community centre and the district was fortunate to have the free use of that private facility for so long. The building was situated in an idyllic setting of acres of lawns and native trees, captured by Group members in a series of sketches and paintings. Over 150 workshops and tutorial sessions, 255 meetings and 25 Christmas parties were held by the Group at Mahaca until, like the rest of the original farms of the area, Mahaca gave way to urban development at the end of 1998 and a chapter in the history of Albany Creek closed.

The Group owes a great deal to both Fred and Matt Campbell who so willingly gave to the Group the use of "Mahaca" where Group activities were held in such a sorely missed beautiful, peaceful and friendly atmosphere.

In May 1975 the Group reached its maximum number of 50 members and the maximum membership was lifted to 60, with meeting attendance regularly exceeding 35 members. Nearly every second meeting at Mahaca was immediately followed by a film night, artist demonstration or talk by art product representatives, greatly increasing the group’s knowledge and understanding of art. Many coffees and suppers were shared.

The film nights were very popular and the Group started its own library in 1988, which in 2016 had nearly 240 books and videos as well as hundreds of pictorial and historical reference photos donated by foundation member Gwen Soutter.

In March 1981 the instigator of the Group and original Patron Frank de Silva was killed in a car accident and Matt Campbell became the Patron and Benefactor in the mid Seventies. With the destruction of Mahaca Matt resigned as Patron in September 2000 and in 2001 Ken Wenzel became, and still is, the Group’s Patron.

TV CHANNEL O gave the Group 5 minutes on its Morning Program "Living", presented by Ian Skippen in July 1985. Lola Newman, our past president told of the forthcoming Group’s Biennial Show at Hawkins Garden Centre. Paintings of some members of the Group were shown and this was the Group’s first and only TV appearance.

To protect the Group’s members, it became incorporated in 1990, the legalities ably handled by member Stan Kilpatrick.

In 1993 a copy of the Group’s 20 year history was sent to the State Library of Qld.

Contact the AAG