The Gallery’s beginnings go back to the establishment of the Orange Festival of Arts in the late 1960’s which brought bi-annual visual arts events to the Central West. This evolved into a community feeling that a permanent venue for these programs was needed. The construction of the Orange Civic Theatre in 1976 provided space in the foyer for small exhibitions. The Orange Civic Theatre Gallery was Directed by Jane Raffin.
The Council resolved in 1983 to build the current Gallery and Library complex after Mary Turner provided the tipping point by donating 34 significant twentieth Century Australian paintings to the city in 1982.
New South Wales Government Project Architect Colin Still designed the Orange Regional Gallery which was opened on 19 April 1986. The building was awarded the Royal Australian Institute of Architects New South Wales Chapter’s Sir John Sulman Medal for a Building of Outstanding Merit.
The project had been due to open in August 1985, however an arsonist soaked rags in kerosene and lit a fire in the main gallery, resulting in substantial damage and delays.
The first exhibition in the Gallery’s large exhibition space was ‘Two Centuries of Australian Painting’ from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, curated by Barry Pearce.
Peter O’Neill was the inaugural Director of Orange Regional Gallery from 1986 to 1990. He was followed by Alan Sisley from 1991 to 2014. Lisa Loader was Director from 2014 to 2016.
In August 2018, Orange Regional Gallery was granted $4,052,990 through the first round of the NSW Government’s Regional Cultural Fund to extend the Gallery. Thanks to additional funding from Orange City Council of $1,000,000 and community donations, the extension, designed by Sydney firm Architect Marshall, will extend the existing facility to include a new contemporary gallery space, new collection and conservation areas and a lecture theatre.
Images: Orange Regional Gallery was officially opened in 1986. Photographs: Constructional Review, November 1986