Portland CEMA History

CEMA Home Up First Annual Report


The Portland Branch of CEMA was formed as part of a world-wide cultural movement following the end of the Second World War. To our knowledge, Portland's CEMA is the only one still operating in any part of the world.

The Portland Branch of CEMA was formed on July 20th, 1945 at a public meeting addressed by a speaker from the Victorian Division of CEMA. Read the First Annual Report given by the first President: John Harris.

For over 50 years, Portland CEMA's dedicated members have developed the cultural life of the district. It currently coordinates 15 self-managed arts groups, and has worked to achieve excellent cultural facilities and public art works.

The CEMA Arts Festivals

In the 1960s and early 70s, Portland CEMA ran weeklong arts festivals. Activities included concerts, recitals, theatrical performances, book fairs, exhibitions and open art competitions.

The CEMA Arts Prize

The winning and selected art works from the art competitions were purchased by Portland CEMA and later presented to the municipal council as the basis of a town art collection.

The CEMA Arts Centre

The CEMA Arts Centre opened on 20 July 1974, the result of nearly 20 years of fundraising by Portland CEMA members under the presidency of Collin Woolcock. Read 1983 interview for more. The building, on the NE corner of Bentinck and Glenelg Streets., serves as a permanent home for CEMA and an arts centre for the community. The Portland CEMA Inc the story of community arts development in the Portland district from 1945 to 2001.

The Euphemia Anderson Theatre

The Euphemia Anderson Theatre was named to commemorate the mother of Keith S. Anderson, C.B.E., M.C., a major benefactor.

Current Developments

New developments continued to be initiated, advocated and supported by Portland CEMA. These included the community arts (now cultural services) officer position; a municipal arts advisory board; cultural surveys & policies; many artist residencies (in theatre, jewellery, puppetry, tapestry, textiles, printmaking, leadlighting and art) increasing local skills and contributing to public art works; and, in 1995, the housing of visual arts groups in workshops and galleries at 19-21 Julia St. incorporated as The Arts Company.

Portland CEMA Inc continues to offer arts opportunities for all through its cultural, performance and visual arts, member groups. In 1945/6 there were four groups (literary, choral, orchestral & drama) with about 80 members. In 2001 there are 16 groups and over 200 members.

The Challenges Of The Future

Where we will be in 2101 is hard to foresee. There is a shortage of active and involved younger people, a by product of their seeking educational and job opportunities in larger population centres. The long-term effect of the recent demise of tertiary arts & music courses in favour of "vocational" courses is unclear. However, the need for arts and recreation pursuits is ongoing and we hope that CEMA Inc will continue to create cultural assets and benefits for the community to carry us to our 100th anniversary and beyond.

More Stuff

Community arts development during the 1970's and '80's fitted in with the Portland "do-it-yourself" ethos, which was already thriving through Portland C.E.M.A.

Over the years Portland C.E.M.A. Inc. and its Groups have

- run a myriad of cultural programs, in many art forms - literary, cultural heritage, visual arts, performances (local and imported), street theatre, workshops, and artist residencies leading to local skills development and to new theatre productions, musical compositions, art works, processional puppets, prints, and leadlights to name a few

- purchased and presented to the municipality a substantial art collection through the Portland C.E.M.A. Art Prize, run from 1960 to 1976,

- benefited from affiliation with the Victorian Arts Council (now Regional Arts Victoria),

- appointed the first Community Arts Officer in country Australia (1975),

- achieved local and State Government support for two important cultural facilities - the Portland C.E.M.A. Arts Centre (1974 - performance and display) and The Arts Company (1995 - studio production and sales in refurbished heritage buildings at 19-21 Julia St.),

- achieved funding grants for projects and artist residencies through Arts Victoria and the municipality, and

- initiated and supported the creation of the Shire's Arts Advisory Board and Cultural Strategy.

Portland C.E.M.A. Inc. is an inclusive and democratic organisation. It is built on volunteer input, and is experienced in negotiation and problem-solving. While it seeks Government grants for special projects its own activities are mostly self-funding.

Today it has 15 Groups. Those based at the C.E.M.A. Arts Centre include the Craft Group, Arts Portland/Heywood ( the local Arts Council), Historical Society, Theatre Group, Poetry Group, Film Group, Choral Group and Community Concert Band. The Book Group still meets in peoples' homes, as all C.E.M.A. Groups did before the construction of the C.E.M.A. Arts Centre.

C.E.M.A. Inc. has many "professional" volunteers working for common benefit.

Portland C.E.M.A. Inc.'s contributions to local Cultural Development have included -

1. The recent Glenelg Shire Art Collection was created by C.E.M.A. Inc. between 1960 and 1976 - C.E.M.A. presented the Portland Town Council with winners of the C.E.M.A. Art Prize , which was held annually. The Collection was to be for the benefit and enjoyment of Portland citizens.

2. Since 1981, many community arts Residencies developed art works which were added to the municipal Collection.

3. C.E.M.A. Inc. raised all of the local contribution ($33,000) towards the construction of the C.E.M.A. Arts Centre (which was built on Council-owned land in 1974) and then paid for most of the initial equipment (including around $7000 in furnishings). Since its opening C.E.M.A. Inc.has also contributed more than $30,000 for extensions, storage and equipment.

4. C.E.M.A. Inc. also initiated the Community Arts Officer position, and paid 1/6 of the salary for eight years until responsibility was accepted by the then Portland City Council.

5. C.E.M.A. Inc. and The Arts Company Inc. have just finalised payment of $48,000 over 6 years to the Glenelg Shire Council. This was raised by the cultural community towards the total cost ($500,000) of refurbishing the heritage buildings at 19-21 Julia St. for arts use.

Portland C.E.M.A. Inc. Public Fund - a Fund able to accept tax-deductible donations for cultural purposes in 1995. From this Public Fund, disbursements have been made to:

The Arts Company (to assist in developing a Business Plan, and to help pay off the building debt)

The Portland District Music Committee (to assist in purchasing choir risers)

The Portland Emerging Artist Residency (to support the 1999 P.E.A.R. Project with Ilka White).