Warmun Art Centre "almost destroyed" in flood - Art Collector

Barry Malgil, Lumugun, Wuniba & Purnululu, 2010. Natural ochre and earth pigments on canvas, 80 x 100cm. Courtesy: the artist and Warmun Art Centre

21 March 2011 | Warmun Art Centre has been almost destroyed and has lost almost 90 per cent of artworks in major flooding around Turkey Creek in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia.

After weeks of heavy rain, in particular on 13 March 2011, Turkey Creek broke its banks and spread some two kilometres inland. “Sunday morning we were getting nervous about the way the creek was rising, so we stacked all the paintings in the art gallery onto tables just in case … When even the studio looked to be in danger Gary [Fletcher] ran in and managed to get a much as he could up to higher shelving, but then ran out in danger of being trapped as the water rose so quickly,” says Warmun’s manager Maggie Fletcher. “Then, the sickening sound of the gallery walls collapsing – we just had to sit tight.”

While much of the artwork being held at the centre has been washed away down the river, Fletcher says she believes works waiting to be sent to customers are safe (though it might take some time to get them to collectors). “By grace of being in an enclosed space [we] have saved at least half of the community’s archival collection – many rather sodden and covered in mud but if we are allowed to stay, we hope to get them dried out before they are mouldy and ruined,” she says.

The centre is an important cultural hub for the region. Over the years it has supported artists including Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie, and now works with such notable atists as Lena Nyadbi, Patrick Mung Mung, Shirley Purdie, Mabel Juli and Rammey Ramsey.

Not just the art centre, but the whole Warmun community, will now need significant support to get back on its feet.

Jane O'Sullivan

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