In July 1983 well-known local artist, Ken Taber, held a six weeks oil painting course at the Batemans Bay CWA hall with a roll up of approximately 36 budding artists. He repeated the course in September of that year and again in July 1984. The same artists turned up for more lessons. This prompted Ken to suggest forming an Art Society. Bettie Griffiths and Eunice Cole approached the Montague Arts & Crafts Society at Narooma to gather information re constitutions and the running and managing of a society so that they could start the Batemans Bay group.

On 24th October 1984 the first meeting was held with Bettie Griffiths being elected as the first President of The Batemans Bay Arts & Crafts Society Inc. During the years that followed several exhibitions were held in various locations. In May 1991 the society set up a workshop in the old Police Station and it was affectionately referred to as the Cop Shop Gallery. Sausage sizzles and exhibitions on the Court House corner were held to raise money for the running costs of both galleries. Sadly, the Cop Shop Gallery was closed in July 1993 due to work commencing on the new Police Station.

Finally, in August 1992, 28 Fenning Place was offered, free of rent, for the Society to display its work on a permanent basis. A lot of hard work was put in by members to acquire lighting and hessian covered boards to use as backdrops for their paintings. The craft was effectively displayed on bales of hay. The Bank of NSW building (at the time) was due for demolition and the society ended up with blue carpet for the floor.

1999 saw a dedicated band of workers cleaning out dark and dingy premises at 52 Sydney Street Mogo. They included Rhonda Lenon, Anne Viney, Sue Barr, Sheryl Miller and their husbands. Walls were removed, fluorescent lights installed, and a new paint job done to brighten things up. With the budget, being tight, they went to the local tip to obtain many items such as tables and display shelves. President Shirley McCleary ran a competition to decide on a name.

The winner was June Lucre and eventually the doors of Wattlebark Gallery opened on Wattle Day the 1st August 1999 by Judy Vardon who was Mayor at the time. Rhonda Lenon was coordinator and presided over the care and running of the Gallery for many years.

See a historic video of the Wattlebark Gallery on YouTube.

Click or tap the image to see a historic 30 minute video of the creation of the Wattlebark Gallery (opens in a new browser tab).

Produced by John Allen 2013
Source: VHS video tapes from members
Speaking ‘off the cuff,’ at the 20th Anniversary gathering, founding member Sheryl Miller acknowledged the hard work of people such as the original Gallery Convener Rhonda Lenon and then Barbara Stewart, and many others in establishing an outlet for the creative work of local artists

Exhibition history.

In the early nineties exhibitions were held in the squash courts at the Uniting Church, later moving to the school hall at Batemans Bay Primary on the site now occupied by the Coles complex. Sunshine Bay School was our next venue until we outgrew the space and moved to Batemans Bay High School in the late 2000’s for a few years. In the past two years we hired the historic Francis Guy building c1875 possibly the oldest in the main street of Batemans Bay. Now we are back at the High School for our annual 2021 -2022 exhibition.

Raffles have been continually run with proceeds going to various charities such as Snowy Hydro South Care, Moruya Hospital, Malua Bay Surf Club, the Bushfire Brigade, Mogo Zoo, Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter and many others.

CABBI as it is known, is now in its 37th year of operation. Its members are dedicated to producing work which can be viewed at regular exhibitions throughout the year culminating in an annual exhibition. These exhibitions showcase paintings, sculpture and craft which are judged by well-known artists. There is a large, eclectic display by members and the exhibition is a draw card for both Batemans Bay residents and the many tourists who visit the area.