Newcastle arts and culture
From one of Australia’s finest public art collections to splendid theatres, cutting-edge performances and festivals, and memorable exhibitions, Newcastle enjoys a wonderful arts scene. The exciting events calendar is filled with concerts, shows and festivals as well as all kinds of musical genres.
Many success stories begin in NSW’s second-biggest city, from great painters to international music stars. Painter and sculptor William Dobell, Tap Dogs creator and choreographer Dein Perry, country music singer Catherine Britt and rock band Silverchair are just several of Newcastle’s famous names.
The Newcastle Art Gallery curates the second-largest collection in NSW. Among the more than 6,100 works is Dobell’s Portrait of a strapper (1941), Brett Whitley’s Summer at Carcoar (1977), Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s Summer storm (1992) and an impressive range of Aboriginal bark paintings.
The gallery is free, though some special exhibitions do charge an entry fee. Free guided tours every Saturday and Sunday depart from the Gallery Shop at 11am. A short stroll away is the elegant Spanish baroque-inspired Civic Theatre, a popular venue for concerts, theatre and comedy.
Nearby is the resplendent Newcastle City Hall, which opened in 1929. The grand concert hall’s entry and interior are decorated with mesmerising murals by famous painters John Montefiore and John Olsen, who was born in Newcastle. Olsen’s vast Climbing sun over the Hunter lights up the foyer.
In public spaces in the city centre are intriguing and bold sculptures, from the James Cook Memorial Fountain in pretty Civic Park to Constance the Camel outside the Newcastle Museum. To the west of Civic Park is the National Trust’s Miss Porter’s House, a snapshot of life in the early 20th century.
For avant-garde creations, This is Not Art is a national festival of experimental and emerging arts held on the October long weekend. The Lock-Up, a cultural centre of art, music and ideas, puts on regular contemporary exhibitions and shows in a heritage-listed old police station east of Civic Park.
Tree-lined Cooks Hill borders Civic Park. The inner-city suburb is home to the Newcastle Art Gallery and rows of Victorian terrace houses. Since 1975, Cooks Hill Galleries has displayed and sold a fine selection of collectible works. In Darby Street you’ll find a lively mix of cafes, bars and restaurants.