The William Fletcher Trust 1985–2006

replaced by the William Fletcher Foundation in August 2006

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Bill Fletcher at Church Point, in October 1982 – three months before his death – with Peggy Russell-Jones and Trevor Andersen (photo: Colin Russell-Jones)
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William Fletcher Trustees Meeting, 1994. (From left) Shane, Paul, Robin, Linda, Terry, Ken, Christopher
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The first object was mainly the responsibility of the Founder, Trevor Andersen, including authorship of an illustrated monograph on the artist’s life and work in 1983 and, with Robin Wines, an illustrated catalogue ln 2006.
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David Middlebrook receives his grant at Newcastle, while Peter Singleton, Graham Gilchrist and Dr Huxley share the moment.
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Farewell to Ken Tribe as Chairman and welcome as Patron. Fletcher Trustees Meeting 2003 at National Art School Board Room: Paul, Neil (obscured), Chris, Liz, Ken, Michelle
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Election of Eula Guthrie as Chairman. Fletcher Trustees Meeting 2003 at National Art School Board Room: Linda, Eula, Trevor

Following the sudden death on 22 January 1983 of the artist William Ernest Maurice Fletcher at his Church Point home, the first posthumous exhibition of the artist’s work was held at the Artarmon Galleries in November of that year. At that exhibition, Trevor Andersen, Fletcher’s partner and the executor of his estate, announced that he would devote the sales of the artist’s works to establish a visual arts trust in honour of the artist.

The William Fletcher Trust was formally established in May, 1985 with the following original trustees who were supportive friends of the founder: Kenneth Tribe AC (Chairman), Eula Guthrie, Terence Clarke, Paul Milton, Shane Simpson and Robin Wines (Treasurer) and Trevor Andersen (Executive Officer). The trustees came from positions of responsibility: in the law (Kenneth, Shane); education (Eula, Paul, Robin and Trevor); or the theatre (Terence). All shared an interest in the promotion of the visual arts.

Over its twenty-year existence, the composition of the Board of the Trust changed with the retirement of Shane Simpson and his replacement by Neil Morrison (law) and enlargement of the Board to include more persons with professional experience in the visual arts, such as Linda Slutzkin (Art Gallery of NSW), Dr Christopher Allen (art critic and National Art School lecturer), Elizabeth Gibson (Art Gallery of NSW), Brian Ladd (Art Gallery of NSW), Jann Simmonds (art teacher) and Michelle Hiscock (National Art School lecturer).

The William Fletcher Trust was a charitable trust listed on the Register of Cultural Organizations. As such, it had Australian Taxation Office endorsement as a taxation-deductible gift recipient and as an income tax-exempt charity.

The objects of the Trust were to promote Fletcher’s work, to assist the development and advancement of young, talented artists in need, and to further the cause of art education in New South Wales.

The continuing support of Trustees and friends in its promotion was greatly appreciated by the founder. Significant donations from the founder, the Trustees and other individuals, sales at exhibitions and art auctions, together with royalties, provided the original source of the Trust’s capital, enabled the development and implementation of the Trust’s first and second objects , viz the promotion of the artist’s work and the introduction of grants to outstanding visual arts students in straitened circumstances in tertiary institutions in New South Wales.

Initiatives which promoted these objects were: the posthumous exhibitions held in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 2006; the royalties earned from illustrations of Fletcher’s paintings in the production of greeting cards for The National Trust and calendars produced by John Sands Ltd, which were distributed on a world-wide basis, as well as donations from generous individuals.

In 1987, after consultations with the principals of tertiary institutions in Sydney and Newcastle that provided courses in the visual arts (especially painting, drawing and print-making), the Trustees decided to advertise the first grants for talented visual arts students.

The original institutions served were: Sydney College of the Arts, College of Fine Arts, Macarthur College of Advanced Education, Nepean College of Advanced Education, and Hunter College of Advanced Education. Heads of art departments of the original five colleges were most co-operative in helping to design guidelines and procedures for the selection process. The first grants were awarded in 1988.

The principal criteria for awarding grants to students were outstanding talent and financial need. The Trust’s revenue generated by its capital, after allowance for inflation, determined the number and size of grants. Selection was based upon the quality of application, including the submission of a case for need and of examples of the artist’s works.

Over the period 1994–98, the original five institutions were extended to ten by the addition of Southern Cross University, University of Wollongong, the National Art School, the National School of Dramatic Art (Design course), Charles Sturt University and the University of Newcastle (Natural History Illustration course). In 2003, the method of selection of grantees was changed from one based on interviews on campus, to a clearinghouse selection, which enabled all applicants to submit their cases, and to display examples of their work at the one venue.

Changes outside the Trust’s control caused some contraction of visual arts training in NSW: the Visual Arts program at Charles Sturt University has closed and the two art departments at Milperra and Penrith of the University of Western Sydney initially amalgamated at Nepean Campus; however, the Visual Arts program at the University of Western Sydney closed in 2007. Additionally, Sydney College of the Arts was incorporated into the University of Sydney and the College of Fine Arts into the University of New South Wales. Effectively from 2002, the Trust provided assistance to eligible students from eight institutions annually.

Between 1988 and the termination of the Trust in 2006, the Trust awarded grants totalling $174 700 to 268 art students, ranging from $250 to $2000 each. In several cases the grants enabled talented students, who otherwise might have dropped out of their studies because of financial hardship, to finish their studies.

The work of the William Fletcher Trust was highly praised by the various institutions, because of its endeavours to provide assistance mid-year to students with outstanding talent who were in straitened financial circumstances. The grants were not simply prizes, but grants to assist further study.

In 2006 The William Fletcher Trust was formally terminated, following the establishment of William Fletcher Foundation, under the chairmanship of Miss Eula Guthrie; the first Board of Directors was comprised of the retiring Trustees of The William Fletcher Trust.