Meet the Neighbours

"Good fences make good neighbours."

That was the view of American poet Robert Frost but lately the fence between the offices of the Diocese of Maitland- Newcastle and neighbour of 26 years, Newcastle Arts Centre, has seemed smaller and less important. Perhaps in time it will come down altogether.

So who are these neighbours?

The Newcastle Arts Centre (NAC) is located in Parry Street, in what was once St Aloysius’ High School. The diocese purchased the premises from Newcastle City Council last year and has developed a special agreement with NAC to allow it to remain at least until mid-February 2017.

NAC was established in 1983 as the Community Arts and Adult Education Centre of Newcastle Pty Ltd and, after a brief stay in Newcastle East, moved to Union Street premises where it remained until 1988. Its brief is to support artists and the arts and to engage in projects and programs that support the community. It provides affordable studios for 38 artists including painters John Morris, Peter Lankas, Rachel Milne and Pablo Tapia, textile artists Meredith Woolnough, Olivia Parsonage and Katrina Kellett, ceramicists Grant Keene and Melissa Bull, The Strutt Sisters and milliner Jennifer O'Brien, to name a few. Newcastle Art Space (NAS) on Parry Street (behind the red door) is an artist-run space showing the work of local artists. Exhibition openings are held every three weeks and everyone is welcome to pop in, enjoy a glass of wine and admire the work on display. Each year the Newcastle Emerging Artists Prize (NEAP) is held with awards for works on paper, painting, photo media, sculpture and textiles. NEAP winners have gone on to establish significant careers in the arts, nationally and internationally.

The Black Box is home to drama, dance and music performances and is available for hire at reasonable rates. As well, NAC runs art classes and workshops, some for professional artists and students wishing to hone their skills, some for beginners.

NAC is known for its commitment to the AIR-Hunter (Arts in Recovery) program, and works with Hunter New England Health, Samaritans and RichmondPRA to provide art workshops and professional development for people with a lived experience of mental health issues.

NAC's programs and approach are underpinned by a clear set of values:

  • Commitment to community well-being
  • Inclusiveness and equity
  • Caring for the disadvantaged
  • A belief in the power of art to inspire and educate
  • A love of the city and its people
  • Collaboration.

Readers of Aurora might find resonance here with the values that underpin the Catholic faith. We neighbours might be a little noisy at times, we might have odd friends and our taste in art may not always appeal, but perhaps we have more in common than we think. Let's explore that further. Want to see for yourself? Please join us for ARTFEAST, our open day, on Saturday 31 October when you can talk with artists in their studios, purchase art work, view the exhibition in NAS, enjoy delicious food and drink and be entertained in the sunshine by local singers and musicians. Entry is free and we would love to see you and your friends and family there!

Claire Williams is Acting Chair of NCAC. For more information, email

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Claire Williams

Claire Williams is Acting Chair of NCAC. She is a creative strategist currently engaged in research into the creative industries and industry clusters.

Previous roles include Faculty Director of Creative Industries at Hunter TAFE and tenured Lecturer in Information Studies at Charles Sturt University.

Claire is a published author and has worked professionally as an actor. She has postgraduate qualifications in History, Education, Librarianship and HR Management.

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