Do you believe it is time for a stand-alone, Aboriginal-run, Aboriginal museum?
When it was open to the public, the Syron collection, then called Black Fella's Dreaming, was the only Aboriginal-owned Aboriginal museum in Australia ever. It prioritised political Aboriginal art in a way no other collection ever has. It is a huge collection with over 547 pieces and 465 artists. Walking through it was always an incredibly moving political and spiritual experience. Now it needs your help...
To get to the videos and photos at the bottom of this page, please keep on clicking 'Read more'. The videos give a sense of just how important this collection is to the process of acknowledging and healing what has been done by colonialism in this country.
I am Theo Kitchener and I've set up this crowdfunding campaign to request emergency support for the Syron's unique Aboriginal art collection, which includes Gordon Syron's art (he is a well-known pioneer of Aboriginal portraiture, truth telling and historical art), and Elaine Syron's historical photographs (her photographs document the Aboriginal protest movements, Aboriginal dance, the Redfern community and much more, dating from 1971), which are all in dire need of help to be stored safely and affordably; and ultimately of getting the museum going again, so that this important collection can be made publicly accessible again!
A large part of the collection is currently in Lismore and only escaped being flooded by half a metre earlier this year! Meanwhile the storage costs have just gone up again and it is unsustainable for the Syrons to continue paying for the current storage just from their pensions. They are 80 and 77 now, have given so much already, and need your help to continue stewarding this historic collection.
Judgement by His Peers - Gordon Syron
For years now they've spent most of their old age pensions on paying exorbitant storage costs for the art and photographs. It's a huge worry that if one of them passes away or needs to go into a home, they won't be able to pay the storage fees anymore. At one point previously, the art was spread out amongst up to twenty different places, including a barn, attics, and supporters' offices. Some of it was damaged by rain and rodents. We really don't want something like that happening again, and it feels extremely risky, with much of it currently stored in Lismore, and the floods there getting more and more extreme.
Some of the artists in the collection include Adam Hill aka Blak Douglas, Brad Webb, Dr Bronwyn Bancroft, Carmel Nicholson, Christine Christopherson, Daphne Wallace, Darren Cooper, David Janganlinji, Digby Moran, Euphemia Bostock, Genevieve Grieves, Gordon Hookey, James P. Simon, Jason Pitt, Walangari Karntawarra, Cecil Bowden, Jeffrey Samuels, Joe Hurst, Karen Casey, Dr Jenny Fraser, Karla Dickens, Bibi Barbra, Laddie Timbrey, Merv Bishop, Michael Riley, Roy Kennedy, Shane Hanson, Shirley Amos, Bibi Barba, Teena McCarthy, Tim Ives, Tracey Moffatt, Robin Nganjmirra, Clifford Possum, Gabriella Possum, Emily Kngwarreye, Mary Dixon, Gordon Pupugamirri, Kamahi Djordon King, Djawida Nadjongorle, Abraham Dakgalawuy, Lindsay Bird Petyarre, David Cameron, Joshua Bangarr, Chris Ngaboy, Yarramunua, Vivianne Gilbert Muiya, Billy Petyarre, Michael Jagamara Nelson, Lily Sandover, and Dorsey Smith.
The collection also contains a didgeridoo collection, a book collection, a poster collection, a t-shirt collection, doll collection, artefacts and a rare sculpture collection.
Gordon Syron & Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Linda Burney
“I had a dream while in prison to keep the best of my artworks... my dream then grew to keep the best of other Aboriginal artists. This collection is priceless to me and is a living testimony to the injustices and ongoing devastation of Aboriginal people, past and present. They took our land without asking; now they want our culture, our heritage is threatened by souvenir shops, and even tax-free Aboriginal art is sold by foreigners and made by foreigners. White fellas have lots of Keeping Places all over this country, all we want is this one Keeping Place.”
So, we need your help to raise money to get the whole collection brought together to a safe place (it is currently stored in Canberra, Magnetic Island, Sydney, Wagga Wagga and Lismore).
The loss of the collection would be tragic. They have given so much to keep it together, now they could use some help. Please do more than acknowledge these elders - support them.
The money we raise will first go to our top priority - moving the collection and the Syrons to a single secure location - which would help greatly to reduce their storage costs, ensure safety for the collection, enable Elaine to begin documenting the stories that go with her photographs before she forgets them or passes away; and ease Gordon's mind, as he keeps wandering around unable to see the art which he has lived with for so many years, and deciding that it must have been stolen.
Once that is done, the second priority will be to hire someone to help Uncle Gordon and Elaine to try to find a way to get the museum going again and employing Aboriginal people, as well as getting Gordon's art and Elaine's photographs seen by the public.
There is a huge and realistic opportunity here to make this happen and make it sustainable (in terms of grants, partnerships with various organisations/government bodies and sales of Gordon's art and Elaine's photographs); it's just that Uncle Gordon and Elaine do not have the organisational or technical ability to do this themselves.
Uncle Gordon & Elaine Syron at their old museum in Redfern
Please donate as much as you can, and please share this crowdfunding campaign as widely as you can, multiple times if you can. The Syrons have given so much to keep the collection together. The museum could be secured, reopened & sustainable, and this would be a huge boon to the Indigenous movement in Australia today. Seeing Indigenous history in artistic form, is one of the most moving and activating political and spiritual experiences.
Names of those who donate will be listed on this campaign and at the hopeful future museum, as a token of our appreciation (unless they choose otherwise).
I would like to acknowledge that I am writing this on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respect to Elders both past, present and future.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should be aware that these links, videos, photographs and captions may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons. I do not wish to cause distress to living relatives and community members or others.
"Urban Corroboree" - AIDT (now NAISDA) on Eveleigh St Redfern - Elaine Pelot Syron
Funding priority details
The money we raise will first be used to rent a safe and secure building/property/warehouse and cover moving expenses for the Syrons and all of the art and photographs, as well as for a bond and any other artwork moving expenses (potentially including installing air conditioners and dehumidifiers to protect the collection depending on the space it ends up in). We predict that all of that will cost around $40 as it is so huge, so spread out around the country and because moving the art needs to be done by art specialising movers.
Whatever money is leftover will be used for our second priority, to hire someone to help with hopefully getting the museum going again, getting Uncle Gordon and Elaine's art and photographs seen by the public and their financial sustainability into their old age. This will probably be on a largely entrepreneurial basis, with the funds used as an initial retainer. If you are interested in applying for that position, please contact us via the contact link at the very bottom of this page.
Parliament House - Gordon Syron
More ways you can help
If you are interested in supporting the campaign by purchasing Gordon's paintings or Elaine's photographs, please get in touch below. We are working on getting these onto their websites, however we are not quite there yet.
We are also very open to government support, corporate sponsorship, philanthropy, offers of space to house the collection, and revenue-based loans (with a return), so if you have any ability to help in those regards, please get in touch below and we can discuss.
If you are interested in helping with ongoing organisational efforts, or with the moving process, and are able to commit to it, that could help us to reduce costs and would be hugely helpful. Volunteers would be greatly appreciated in Canberra, Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Lismore, Magnetic Island, and for the trips between places (especially if you have a truck license). Please contact us below.
Gordon Syron & the Hon Michael Kirby, a lead patron of the Keeping Place
Links, videos and photos
Below are some links, some videos about the collection, as well as some more images of artworks from the collection, Gordon's paintings, and Elaine's photographs, and some photos of Uncle Gordon & Elaine.
Unfortunately some of the photos shown here are cropped in ways that cut out part of the artworks/photographs, are cut in half, or are a bit pixelated. This is due to GoFundMe's formatting limitations, and I apologise for this.
Where the Wildflowers Once Grew - Gordon Syron
Unfortunately, all of their websites currently require significant updates, and Elaine's website is currently stored on Uncle Gordon's site, as her domain expired. However, you can find more information about them and the collection here.
A proposal submission for the Syron collection to become the foundation of the Sydney Cultural Centre at Barangaroo. This document contains much more information about the collection, it's patrons, more photographs of the artworks, and many quotes from supporters.
Videos about the collection
From 2009 when the collection was housed in a shed in Redfern where Uncle Gordon and Elaine were also living (unfortunately the Aboriginal committee mentioned eventually disbanded after not managing to get the funding they were seeking). Video by Marty Adams.
Reverend Ray Minniecon, a lead patron of the Keeping Place, talks at an exhibition opening in 2015. Film by Barry Ion. Video by Amber Wright.
The Hon Michael Kirby opening The Keeping Place collection of the Syron's at The Australian Museum
A small selection of artworks from the collection
James P. Simon
A small selection of Uncle Gordon's artworks
The Black Bastards Are Coming
A small selection of Elaine's Photographs of the Aboriginal community (she also has huge bodies of work documenting the tattoo, Kings Cross, GLBTQI+ communities, and much more)
Land Rights Protest, Macquarie St, Sydney
Aboriginal & Islander Dance Theatre, Sydney University, 1986
Street Dancing, AIDT students, Glebe, Sydney, 1985
Photos of and articles with Uncle Gordon and Elaine
Dr Jeff McMullen, Official Spokesperson of The Keeping Place since 2012.
Please donate and/or share this crowdfunding campaign as widely as you can.
This precious collection is historically a treasure, and deserves to be safe and seen by the Australian people.