The Riddoch Arts and Cultural Centre has had a varied history since its inception as a public gallery in the Mount Gambier Institute in 1887. But the building had its beginnings in early 1868, with the laying of a Foundation Stone for the Institute. John Riddoch acknowledged the gathered crowd:
“However beautiful and rich our corn-fields may be, however plentiful our pastures, and however successful we may be in amassing wealth, there are higher and nobler elements bearing up on the cultivation and improvement of our minds which must not be lost sight of, if we are to assist our adopted country in attaining to that position to which I believe she is destined.”¹
Close to a decade later, Riddoch was present for the laying of a second stone on 19 February 1887, this time for the addition of another story. He contributed one thousand pounds with the suggestion of a picture gallery and museum, a monetary figure matched by the state government.
Home to the Gallery and Library until 1979, the Institute became unsuitable for a growing collection and increasing exhibition ambitions. In 1984, the Gallery opened next door in the re-purposed King’s Theatre, which had once operated as Star Pictures, the Ozone Theatre, and briefly, as an indoor putt putt golf course! Right next door to the King’s Theatre was a block that has once housed a telegraph office, a post office, and an RSL. In 2011, the Main Corner cultural precinct was developed on the site, with a curved entrance façade echoing the form of a cave in a nod to the geographical history of the region.
The Riddoch Art Gallery first operated under the South East Cultural Trust, supported by a Society. Management then transitioned to Country Arts SA, aided by an active Friends group with a board that was supported by the District Council of Grant, and the City of Mount Gambier. In 2010, this governance group morphed into the Riddoch Art Gallery Incorporated. In 2016, the City of Mount Gambier assumed management of the now Riddoch Arts and Cultural Centre, South Australia’s flagship regional gallery.
¹ No author, ‘Laying the foundation stone of the Mount Gambier Institute’ in Border Watch, 8 January 1868, p 2.