Our Beginning 1945
The Art Centre was the initial idea of Mr George Veldsman, headmaster of St. Philips School. At the time, youngsters were troublesome in the streets and there was talk of more reformatories. In 1945 George Veldsman met with Sydney McKie and Ursula Strydom, teachers at the school and together they decided to do something about the problem. It was agreed to use the school and 13 teachers volunteered to instruct children in whichever activity the teacher was competent.
Activities included painting, needlework, clay-modelling and boxing, to name but a few. Thus 300 children began working in classrooms, and in the school hall – every week redirecting surplus energy into creative activity.
The Rotary Club donated ?100 towards the start of work and later the education authorities supplied some materials. After one year’s work the children’s paintings were exhibited in the Argus Gallery in Burg Street. The Education Department, finally in 1949 recognised the immense potential of an Art Centre, the first of its kind, to be a means of self-expression for Cape Town’s less privileged children.
As early as 1950, the Art Centre was housed in a wonderful old building (recently disclosed to have previously been a synagogue) in Victoria Walk Woodstock.
Teaching was of an outstanding quality, the Principal was Sydney McKie, and the teachers, Ursula Strydom, Vernon Fisher, Esther Perkins and Joan Lawrence, and they catered for everyone:
- Grade R to Grade 12 – visual arts and crafts
- Evening classes for adults offered painting, drawing and ceramics
- Saturday classes for those unable to attend during the week
- In-service teacher training programmes
This progressive and growing institution was not to survive the wrath of the Group Areas Act. In 1969 the government decided that Woodstock Hospital needed to be extended and that the Art Centre, to be demolished and the land be used for the extension of the hospital. The Art Centre was demolished but sadly to-date the land is still vacant.
The Art Centre’s predicament was brought to the attention of a wonderful man, the Rev. John Forbes (later to become the Dean of Pietermaritzburg), at the time John Forbes was the Warden and Estate Manager of Zonnebloem. It was he who came to the rescue of the Art Centre, then headed by August J. Hopley, assisted by Vernon Fischer and Manora Isaacs, the Art Centre took up residence in a 3 room prefabricated building on the Zonnebloem Estate. Austere conditions aside – no running water and storage cupboards in the studios – the Art School survived and we returned to District Six.
Due to financial constraints, we merged with the Battswood Art Centre, losing our autonomy; we are now a satellite campus of Battswood Art Centre.
Mr Mills, the Estate Manager of the Zonnebloem Estate, granted the Art Centre – another prefabricated building, which comprises of 3 large studios with ablution facilities.
Ayesha Price was appointed as the first Principal after our autonomy was reached.
Year 2016 to current
Bernice Carelse-Plato was appointed Principal at the Art Centre and we have 6 educators teaching approximately 2500 learners from 6 primary schools in the immediate vicinity, and 2 high schools.
- Zonnebloem Girls Primary School
- Zonnebloem Boys Primary School
- Chapel Street Primary School
- Holy Cross Primary School
- Rahmaniyeh Primary School
- Walmer Primary School
- Zonnebloem Nest Senior
- Harold Cressy Senior
We are involved in the following programmes:
- Outreach IMBALI prgramme at Kylemore/Stellenbosh
- In-service teacher training
- Programmes for Montessori Educators
- Annual Exhibitions at school (FET & GET)
- Iziko, Irma Stern, Zeitz and District Six Museum excursions
We are governed by the Western Cape Education Department.