On Thursday 15 January the new inductees for the Kiama Arts Honour were announced at the Australia Day Awards Ceremony.
And the winners are…
Charmian Clift | Nominated by Christine Paice
Charmian Clift achieved excellence in the arts by writing novels and travel books; namely, Walk To The Paradise Gardens, Honour’s Mimic, Mermaid Singing and Peel Me A Lotus, all published to international literary acclaim. She collaborated in the writing of three books with her husband, journalist and writer George Johnston.
She wrote the script for the ABC televised series of My Brother Jack, her husband’s Miles Franklin winning novel of the same name.
From 1964 to 1969, the year of her death, Charmian Clift wrote a weekly column for the Melbourne Herald and The Sydney Morning Herald and contributed to the literary magazine, Pol. Thirty six of these essays were anthologized in Images In Aspic, followed by two more anthologies published in 1990.
Charmian Clift was a unique voice writing powerful personal stories in mesmerizing forms. Her childhood in Kiama found its way into her book, Walk To The Paradise Gardens, and into much of her future writing.
As her son, Martin Johnston writes in The World of Charmian Clift, “Charmian Clift thought herself primarily a novelist. But I doubt that she’d be unduly distressed at being remembered, as she undoubtedly is, far more for her non fiction: the subtly, romantically, acerbically beautiful books about Greece, Mermaid Singing and Peel Me A Lotus, and in particular, her essays. She bought a new kind of literacy to the Australian Press.”
Orry George Kelly | Nominated by Gordon Streek
Orry Kelly was born in 1897 in Kiama. He attended Kiama Public and Wollongong District schools and studied art, acting, dancing and voice.
He move to New York in 1921 and found employment as a tailor’s assistant, then as a painter of murals for nightclubs and department stores. Kelly’s murals led to employment as a title designer for silent films for the Fox Film Corporation and to designing stage sets and costumes for actors such as Katharine Hepburn, Ethel Barrymore and Jeanette MacDonald.
In 1932 he became chief costume designer at Warner Bros, working on hundreds of films and dressing many major stars, his most distinguished work done for Bette Davis, whose ‘red’ ball gown in the black-and-white film, Jezebel (1938), was probably his best-known single creation.
Kelly then secured a three-year contract with Twentieth Century-Fox to dress Betty Grable and from 1950 he freelanced with several studios and established private workrooms, designing for Rosalind Russell, Leslie Caron, Kay Kendall, Shirley MacLaine and Natalie Wood.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded him three Oscars for best costume design for An American in Paris (1951, shared with two others), Les Girls (1957) and Some Like It Hot (1959).
John Downton | Nominated by Graham Mackie
Born in Sydney in 1939, John had many childhood years at Werri Beach and on the South Coast at Eden.
John attended art classes at the Royal Art Society of NSW with teachers such as; Kenneth Green, Allan Hanson and Arthur Murch and was also privately tutored by George Duncan. He also spent many years Plein Air Painting with master artist Leonard Long..
John’s has been awarded many awards for his work including;
- Royal Art Society of NSW – Fellowship
- Japanese Cultural Award and Citation – 25th Taiyo Art Award
- Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia – Honorary Membership
- Australian Society of Marine Artists Presidents Medal
- Fellowship of the Australian Society of Marine Artists
- Navy Artist for East Timor
John’s work is represented at the:
- Regional Gallery Bega
- Naval College Jervis Bay
- Commonwealth Art Bank
- Miyosh School Japan and
- private collections in Australia and overseas including: Britain, France, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, New Zealand, New Guinea, Canada, Germany, Zimbabwe, Chile, Brazil, Israel, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia
Dennis Koks | Nominated by Graham Mackie
Dennis Koks grew up in Capetown’s District Six during the Apartheid era and was classed as coloured by South Africa’s pro white government. He studied at Capetown Teachers College, where he completed a Fine Art course and at the Zennebloenn College before becoming an Art Teacher. After hours and weekends he assisted aspiring young artists to work alongside established artists in visual arts, theatre and jazz.
His art teaching has been recognised in a book titled Great South African Teachers, which celebrates teachers who struggled against great odds to give their students a chance of success. A tribute to Dennis from one of his students Malcolm Campbell (now one of South Africa’s leading Architects) reads; ‘I am art, I am humanity, I am success because he is all that and much more. I continue to learn from him as a teacher and a friend’
Dennis and his wife migrated to Australia in 1970 and have now been residents of Kiama for more than 40 years.
Dennis has spent 27 years as the host of Vox-FM Community Radio jazz program during which time he has won two National Broadcasting Awards. Through his working career he has also:
- Taught art at Warilla and Kiama High Schools
- Was the Department of Education’s Art Consultant and Inspector to Illawarra and South Coast Schools
- Lectured to the University of the Third Age and
- Was a Jazz Critic for the Illawarra Mercury
As the founding President of the Kiama Jazz Club, Dennis has been the driving force behind many projects bringing international artists to Kiama for the Jazz and Blues Festival. As a result the Jazz and Blues Festival has since become one of the highlights on the Australian and International Jazz calendar. He is responsible for arranging visits to Kiama by world renowned musicians including: George Cables, Ray Brown, Monty Alexander and Herb Ellis. As a result Kiama became known internationally during this period as one of the premier jazz venues in Australia.
Dennis he has been a strong promoter of cultural events in Kiama bringing to the area some of Australia’s finest classical musicians, together with international choirs, pianists, instrumentalists and singers.