Boans Exhibition of Carrolup Drawings

Exhibition of Carrolup art at Boans department store, The West Australian , 23rd October 1947. The boys from left to right are Claude Kelly, Barry Loo, Reynold Hart and Parnell Dempster. Noel & Lily White Collection.

In an earlier blog, I described the early public acclaim the children of Carrolup received for their drawings and other work. John P Stokes, who had been editor of the Lord Forrest Centenary Booklet, in which five of the Carrolup children had their work included, asked the Department of Native Affairs if the Carrolup children could have their own art exhibition.

On the 29th September 1947, the Acting Commissioner of  Native Affairs, Mr C L McBeath, notified Carrolup teacher Noel White that ‘an exhibition of the Carrolup children’s crayon drawings’ had been approved. The exhibition would take place in the Crystal Section of Boans, the largest department store in Perth. It would take place from Tuesday, 21st October until Friday, 24th October 1947, and 450 of the children’s drawings would be exhibited.

Four of the Carrolup boys, Reynold Hart, Parnell Dempster, Barry Loo and Claude Kelly, dressed in safari suits made by Mrs White, demonstrated their skills at the exhibition (see above). Reviews of the Exhibition in The West Australian  were favourable, and a total of £120 was raised from art sales and donations. [The sum of £120 is equivalent to $8,000 in today’s money]

The Lieutenant-Governor (Sir James Mitchell), in declaring the exhibition open, remarked upon the youth of the artists, whose ages ranged from ten to 12 years. If what they had seen was a specimen of the progress of these native {sic} children, who had been at the school only two years, he predicted exceptional results in the future.’ The West Australian, 22nd October 1947

The organiser of the display (Mr. J.P. Stokes) said yesterday that the exhibition was one of the most significant held in Perth for many years. It showed that there was in native {sic} children rich latent talent which needed only opportunity to be developed. The money raised would be used for the purchase of materials necessary to encourage art and for a few amenities….’The West Australian, News and Notes, 3rd November 1947.

In his School Journal entry of the 31st of October, Noel White wrote, The boys were highly delighted with the work at the Exhibition in Perth. The results were very gratifying. Public interest was aroused.’

Two of the Carrolup boys, one being Claude Kelly, lodged with Frank and Myrtle Amos during the Boans exhibition. The Amos’s will play an important role in the lives of some of the Carrolup boys from time to time over the coming years.

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