A superb collection of Council-owned artworks hidden away for the past six years in a shed near the Showground saw the light of day again last weekend in conjunction with the Cootamundra Art Show in the Town Hall.

The 34 paintings were hung in the Civic Hall, which leads directly off the Town Hall, and will be remaining in place for the public to come in and see. If Cootamundra’s mayor and deputy mayor have their way, they will stay there permanently, creating an art gallery for the enjoyment of townspeople and visitors.

Viewing the Show last Saturday, Mayor Charlie Sheahan said he and Deputy Mayor Leigh Bowden were concerned that the artworks, purchased by the Council over many years, had not been accessible to the people who paid for them, the ratepayers.

Cr Bowden said the paintings had been purchased at the rate of one a year since the first Cootamundra Art Show was held in 1984, but purchases had stopped when the Show went into abeyance in 2018.

“They were on walls throughout the Council offices but as far as I understand were taken down in 2016 on the orders of the interim general manager Alan Dwyer after the amalgamation of the Cootamundra and Gundagai shires,” she said.

“I’m told they were then put away in the Bradman shed, a shed with offices at the corner of Bradman and Pinkerton Streets.

“Some people have suggested they could now go back up on the walls of Council offices, but both the mayor and I are firmly of the opinion they should be on public exhibition, because we see them as the public’s property.

“We would like to see the Civic Hall more open to the public so that people can call in any time to view the artworks.”

Cr Sheahan said the fundamental principle was that the public has paid for them through ratepayers’ money.

“We believe this space here should be open and an attraction to members of the community as well as to visitors,” he said.

The kitchen in the Civic Hall was recently renovated at considerable expense, and Cr Sheahan said that in the future it could be used in conjunction with the display.

“Down the track we will investigate the possibility of the Hall and its kitchen being utilised in some way by organisations in town that can also enhance this public space and make it more of an attraction to the broader community.,” he said.

“There are a few stumbling blocks like occupational health and safety regulations but we’d like to see it open and we’re working towards that.”

Cr Bowden said the paintings were currently hung in a standard way on a picture rail, and concerns had been raised that one or more of them might be stolen.

“There are ways of hanging pictures in a gallery such that they cannot be stolen,”

she said, “and we should not let any security concerns see the paintings go back into obscurity in a shed along with Council machinery.”