Paddy’s Gallery opens at Trades Hall
The Victorian Trades Hall, located on the corner of Lygon and Victoria streets in Carlton, is the world’s oldest trade union building.
Recently, the magnificent structure has opened its doors to various cultural events such as theatre productions, art exhibitions, plays, and concerts focusing on political and on-the-edge performances.
On Sunday, August 21, an art gallery in honour of Paddy Garritty for worker-focused art, and a platform for emerging artists of diverse backgrounds, was officially opened at the Trades Hall.
Paddy Garritty was a seaman, a painter and docker, the secretary of the Unemployed Workers Union, a trade union activist, and a well-known arts promoter who passed away in August 2020, aged 83.
Inspired by the fact that the Trades Hall was once an art school that nurtured the likes of Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts, Garritty blazed a trail that saw the people’s palace once again open up to Melbourne’s workers and creatives.
He started a bar on-site and forged relationships with the Melbourne Comedy Festival and the Fringe Festival, which enshrined the Trades Hall as one of Melbourne’s most beloved arts venues.
Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Luke Hilakari said, “Paddy Garritty was instrumental in keeping Trades Hall’s link with the arts alive, and this gallery will operate in that tradition.”
“By having a dedicated art space in the building, we hope this will be where opportunities are given to emerging artists to display their works.”
Cultural Heyday: Trades Hall Arts 1970-2000, the opening exhibition in Paddy’s Gallery, features artists such as Rick Amor, Mary Leunig and Geoff Hogg.
In the long rectangular gallery space along one wall, Rick Amor’s Westgate Series of lithographs and charcoal on paper depict stark images of the workers and the bridge.
Opposite in complete contrast is a superb collection of Mary Leunig cartoons. She is a founding member of the Victorian Trades Hall Artists Studio and produced artworks for Wally Curran and the Meat Workers Union. Her gouache and ink-on-paper illustrations are whimsical and yet poignant in their message.
“We worked closely with Mary Price, Paddy’s partner, to create this gallery at Trades Hall, where workers have come together since 1891,” Mr Hilakari said.
Geoff Hoggs started the Victorian Trades Hall Council Arts Workshop in 1981, which was responsible for producing a series of union banners.
Step over the gallery’s threshold, and on the left is a digital reproduction of the Slaters, Tilers and Roofing Industry Union of Victoria’s banner. The original banner is oil on linen.
There is a small collection of photographs, artist unknown, from a joint initiative between the Australian Council of the Arts and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, known as the Art and Working Life Program, that ran from the early 1980s to the 1990s.
“Working people should have a place to learn and express themselves through art. We are pleased that this gallery continues this tradition,” Mr Hilakari said. •