In memory of iconic artist Margaret Olley
OF the 800 invited guests who will today celebrate the opening of the $4 million Margaret Olley Art Centre, none will be prouder than the first couple of Murwillumbah, Doug and Margot Anthony.
The former deputy prime minister and his wife's support for the local arts scene dates back to the late 1980s, and most notably includes donating the original piece of land which houses the Tweed River Art Gallery, and now the new Olley wing.
Despite all the achievements the now 84-year-old keen amateur painter racked up during his 26-year political career, you get the feeling that the gallery is the legacy that he is the most proud of.
"It's part of us," says Doug explaining the emotional ties the couple have with the popular facility which is adjacent to the hillside home in which they have lived since 1957.
"It's our country," adds Margot.
The pair also feels a personal connection to the late Olley who stayed in their home when she visited to open the second stage of the gallery.
"She was very down-to-earth, straight talking," recalls Margot.
"She insisted I play the piano and she loved that."
One of Olley's paintings, Nippy on Chair, which the pair bought in 2000, is one of the many artworks that line their walls.
Margot, who was the foundation president of the Friends of the Gallery and remains a patron, remembers when Tweed gallery supporters were considered part of the chardonnay set.
"Art was considered very elitist then," she says.
"But bit by bit that was broken down and our greatest joy now is seeing the families who are coming there."
The pair can hear the chatter and laughter of the excited school children who regularly visit the facility.
"I just love that sound," says Margot.
"They're all growing up with art as a part of their lives which we didn't do."
The outgoing Governor General Quentin Bryce will open the Margaret Olley Centre at an invitation-only event at 3pm which will also include the who's who of the Australian art scene.