In 1977 Rockhampton Art Gallery was at the forefront of collecting and exhibiting the best of Australian art. Led by the Mayor of the City of Rockhampton Rex Pilbeam and supported by regional businesses and local residents, Rockhampton Art Gallery amassed tens of thousands of dollars in order to develop an enviable art collection. This fundraising effort was motivated by a newly introduced art acquisition fund financed by the Australian Government. Through the Visual Arts Board under the Australian Contemporary Art Acquisition Programme, all monies raised would be matched dollar for dollar, a scheme later revised at two for one. In the span of one financial year the Rockhampton community raised close to $500,000 purchasing a specific focus of works encompassing late 20th century Australian modernist artists, creating a significant collection that today is valued at $17 million.
This history reflects the pride and generosity of Rockhampton residents and of Mayor Pilbeam’s civic devotion. Yet this remarkable story of philanthropy, collection development and cultural pride remains relatively unknown outside of the region. The Rockhampton Art Gallery Philanthropy Board aims to continue in the footsteps of the earlier Rockhampton Art Gallery Trust formed under the leadership of Mayor Pilbeam, continuing his cultural legacy, elegantly stated in his expectation of the future generations to follow:
I solemnly charge the future citizens of Rockhampton to maintain and advance this Gallery in years to come. This is the least that we can expect of the citizens of tomorrow in return for the splendid contribution made by the citizens of today.
The Rockhampton Art Gallery Philanthropy Board plays a strategic leadership role in the development and delivery of philanthropic actions and campaigns to help advance the Rockhampton Art Gallery’s quest to achieve its cultural vision for the Rockhampton region. The key role of the Philanthropy Board is to raise funds and encourage donations to assist the Gallery in acquiring works of art for the permanent collection, provide financial assistance for the Gallery's programs and facilitating financing major capital infrastructure projects.