Beechworth community members interested in supporting one another to pursue arts, crafts, music and theatre formed the Beechworth Arts Council in the 1970s.
Beechworth Arts Council has initiated and supported many community arts projects including:
- Writers, Readers and Poets’ Weekend – in its seventh edition in 2017
- Spring Arts Show
- Beechworth Town Hall Tapestry
- Beechworth Family Album – spanning more than 30 years since 1984
- Lake Samuel labyrinth – as part of Creative Village Project
- Such Fertile Ground Federation centenary project Floating Myths
- Centenary of Women’s Suffrage
Since 1994 the Arts Council has sponsored Beechworth Secondary College visual and performing arts excellence annual awards.
The Arts Council has also supported Beechworth Secondary College students’ attendance at Melbourne Writers’ Festival, New England Summer Camp and Melbourne Theatre Company. It has also helped students to attend Melbourne’s Big Day Out.
The Arts Council hosted a Combined Schools’ Annual Art Exhibition at what is now Mayday Hills Village in the Arts Precinct for many years and provided space for students to prepare work for exhibition.
The Arts Council has conducted many workshops over the years ranging across music, painting, drawing, performance art, leatherwork, bonsai, writing, etching, bookbinding, textiles, weaving, basket-making, photography and sculpture.
In 1980 the Arts Council established the Country Craft Market in Beechworth’s historic Town Hall Gardens. The market was held seasonally until 2004 by which time it supported 170 stalls. It was a regular meeting place for artists, craftspeople, gardeners, cooks and musicians. The ‘home-made, home-grown’ approach remained throughout its development. When the market was required to move from the gardens in 2001 much of the atmosphere was lost. The last Country Craft Market was held in Beechworth Police Paddocks in 2004.
During the 1990s the Arts Council established an Arts Precinct at La Trobe University’s Beechworth campus. The precinct became the centre for arts activity with the Toyshop Studio Spaces available for nominal rent by members. The Kiosk building and the Store were used for many exhibitions and workshops. The precinct was the focus for Arts Council activities until the campus closed in 2011.
The Arts Council’s artists in residence have included sculptor Deborah Gardner, photographer Stephen Henderson (Family Album 1984), painter Paul Rosenbloom, performance artist Jill Orr, and photographer Richard Williams (Family Album 1994).
Regular council activities have included life drawing classes, ‘Made in Beechworth’ exhibitions, Café Concerts (several concerts n which performers have included Martin Hayes (Ireland), Dennis Cahill (United States), Chris Smither (USA) and Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band performances. The council has also presented a Beechworth Film Festival as well as a number of Hothouse Theatre productions, most memorablly ‘Embers’ -following bushfires in 2003.