Ask a Curator

This year we are participating in Ask a Curator day, September 15 September. Our community posed some questions to our curator, Rilka Oakley and you can see her answers below.


Does Council control or have input on exhibitions you want to present there?

Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is part of Council, so in that sense our exhibitions are supported by Blue Mountains City Council. However, all the staff at the Cultural Centre who make curatorial decisions are trained in art history, art administration and curatorial processes and we are considered experts in our field. We also have an exhibition selection committee with independent art industry members who are experts in the visual art field. They assist us by providing feedback and giving input into our ongoing exhibition program.

Has there been any accidental disasters i e. Hand through a painting or broken sculpture?

Luckily the damage to works has been very few and far between at the Cultural Centre and not as dramatic as that. Once while I was unframing a photograph it fell through the mount board and the paper was damaged on the edges. This was easily fixed and is not visible on the image section of the photo. We have received work that has been damaged in transit. One that comes to mind was a silkscreen print that was packed well but sent by post. The packaging was pierced and this had put a hole in the print.

Many years ago, in a previous role, I was present when a huge shipping container of Matthew Barney work was opened and everything was damaged. It was a bit of a disaster for the artist and the organisers at the time but everything was insured

What’s in your collection?

The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre collection has works by local artists and artist who have a connection to the the Blue Mountains. We currently have over 130 works and most of them are works on paper including prints, photographs and drawings. We also have paintings, sculptures and video works. As the collection continues to grow we will exhibit works more often so that visitors to the Cultural Centre can become familiar with it.

Do you have a collection at home?

My personal collection is a mix of works by family, friends and contemporary artists. I like having works on the wall that I love and they usually remind of the time I bought them or of the artist who made them. My collection includes some amazing Aboriginal paintings from a visit to the Tiwi Islands and Maningrida Art Centres in 2001. It also includes works by Joan Ross, Reg Mombassa, Louise Hearman and Una Rey.

Did you always want to be a curator?

I have always loved art, but I love maths and science too and when I was 18 I wanted to be a paramedic. It wasn’t until I went to art school at 23 that I found I was really good at working with artists and helping them get the best out of their work. That’s really the job of a curator in my mind – kind of like being an interpreter between the artist and the audience.

What’s your dream curating job?

My dream curating job 20 years ago was to curate an international biennale, or two.
Now, with four kids at home, I have different aspirations! (Like having a quiet cup of tea in the sun with a good book.)
We have so many amazing artists in the mountains and I am privileged to work with a lot of them. My job is perfect for my current stage of life.