Brett Whitely Studio 20th Anniversary

(1pm, 2 Raper Street, Surry Hills)

Thank you, Michael, [Brand], and hello everyone.

Last year, the City produced its first-ever Cultural Plan. Many of you in this room contributed to the formation of the plan - and I'll take the opportunity to thank you for your thoughts and ideas.

As I said back in 2012, when I proposed that we begin work on a cultural policy, with a strategy to support cultural life in Sydney, such a policy would affirm the centrality of the arts and creativity to all our lives.

While it's often argued - and it's undoubtedly true - that the arts bring measurable economic benefits to a city, I think it is equally important to affirm their vital role in shaping and expressing our identity and ethos.

In developing our cultural policy, we defined "culture" as including not only the arts, but museums and galleries, our history and heritage, design and architecture, libraries, community events, the media…

And it included not only the large institutions but the smaller ones as well, and included a focus on our City villages and local communities.

The Whiteley Studio is a perfect example of a "cultural anchor" for the Surry Hills Village. Like our own Surry Hills Library and Community Centre out there in Crown Street, it draws visitors from across Sydney and further afield.

I believe its 36 exhibitions have attracted about 200,000 visitors to Raper Street, and the education programs have brought no less than 35,000 students from schools as far away as Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

And on Saturday, there'll be a fabulous celebration of the 20th anniversary in an Open Day with music, food and drink, as well as talks by Wendy and Ben Quilty.

It is great to know that the work of the Brett Whiteley Foundation and the future of the studio has been boosted by Wendy's generous donation and that the Scholarship prize money, which has already benefitted so many young artists, has been increased.

I welcome its continuing presence as a cultural hub in this lively Sydney village and wish it all the best for the future in the care of the Art Gallery.