Schools of Arts / Mechanics Institutes

Schools of Arts

Schools of Arts, Mechanics’ Institutes and Literary Institutes were an integral part of the early fabric of Australia society. Nearly every country town had its School of Arts and many still exist under different names reflecting their continuing role as centres of community activity – some ArtsNational societies hold their lectures in the local School of Arts building.

Following the establishment of the first Mechanics’ Institute in Hobart in 1827, the movement spread rapidly bringing wider education, culture, art and literature to communities throughout Australia. ArtsNational in so many ways reflects these same aims. This natural link provides a reason for ArtsNational members to explore Schools of Arts buildings and their roles in regions where our Societies now exist. Our public libraries, adult education, and technical education all had their beginnings in the movement.

In line with one of the primary aims of ArtsNational – the preservation of our national artistic heritage – ArtsNational members have engaged in identifying and researching buildings in their local area and their contributions are listed by State as indicated in the menu below.

Most towns and small settlements at some time had an equivalent of a School of Arts. Though some may now serve a different purpose, many of these buildings remain still providing a focal point for community activities.

Using the location of an ArtsNational Society as the regional focus, it is possible to identify sites that members can readily access. Indeed, some ArtsNational members may live in outlying locations and have family links to an existing building. In many cases, general knowledge of the history of these institutions is sketchy and any information gathered by members is of value.

The project doesn’t aim to provide a formal academic history but rather to enhance our understanding of the community role of the Schools of Arts movement. Searching, finding and collecting information, sharing the research with friends, discovering more about your local area is very rewarding and can be a lot of fun.

ArtsNational members who would like to be involved in what is proving to be a fascinating and absorbing project should contact the co-ordinators through for further information.