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The Tasmanian Government Art Site Scheme - History

The Tasmanian Government Art Site Scheme is an art commissioning scheme designed for enhancing the general public's access to and understanding of contemporary art as practiced by the Tasmanian artistic community. The scheme facilitates all stages of the commissioning process for public artworks that are located in state government buildings and spaces across Tasmania.

In 1979, the Tasmanian Government approved the creation of the Art for Public Buildings Scheme (ABPS), now known as The Tasmanian Government Art Site Scheme. It was the first scheme of its kind to be established in Australia, and continues to operate today by Arts Tasmania.

The first completed commission was in 1980 and consisted of furniture for St Paul’s Chapel at Launceston General Hospital. It was a ‘collection of paintings, chapel furnishings in Huon Pine and an outdoor crucifix by Kevin Perkins, Peter Taylor and Merv Gray.’

This was followed, in 1981, by a further three commissions at Hobart Technical College, Launceston College of TAFE and the Lands Department Hobart, with works being commissioned by Garry Greenwood, Chris Beecroft, Oliffe Richmond, Anton Holzner and Peter Taylor respectively.

In 2005, the program was celebrated through a publication titled Claiming Ground: Twenty-Five Years of Tasmania’s Art for Public Buildings Scheme. The publication featured a cross-section of the programs commissioned works from over 170 Tasmanian artists up until the year 2005, including the very first commission. It was published by Quintus Publishing and distributed by Palgrave Macmillian Australia.

Dr Deborah Malor wrote in her introductory essay for the book, ‘After twenty-five dynamic years, Tasmania’s Art for Public Buildings Scheme is firmly established as both a public collection and a catalogue of the work of the State’s established and emerging artists. In defining a common ground between art and its public, the APBS has been developed in collaboration with architects, the construction industry and government, a powerful connector of art to the community, supporting the community of the arts.’

In its early days the program had to overcome many hurdles , however it continues today as a key economic contributor to the visual art sector in Tasmania with the current upper limit on art works for each project based at $80 000 on an agreed principle that two per cent of the pre-tender estimate for all new Tasmanian Government buildings and renovations be allocated for the purchase and commissioning of art works.

In 2011, the scheme managed over 30 individual projects with an operating budget of over $1 million.