Mark Wakely speaks about his longtime support

Leaving a gift in your Will to Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation is an opportunity for you to ensure that future generations continue to experience the joy of the visual arts in the city we now, or once, called home. We asked longtime supporter, Mark Wakely, how his connection with the gallery led to his leaving a gift in his Will.

I first entered the door of Newcastle Art Gallery as a schoolboy, growing up around the corner in Cooks Hill. The gallery was then only one floor of the Cultural Centre, which also housed the Conservatorium of Music and the ground-floor library where, ostensibly, I would go to study. More often than not, I climbed the stairs to the gallery, where it wasn’t unusual to find myself alone in a space that felt like a sanctuary, a portal to a creative world for a kid who was keener on the arts than sports.

Dobell became my local hero; a humble man, also raised in working-class Cooks Hill, yet here were his wonderous paintings hanging on the walls of a public art gallery, like the galleries in all the civilised cities of the world I had seen only in library books. Interestingly, and appalling really, I can’t recall once being taken to the gallery on a school excursion; so much has changed for the better.

I left Newcastle in my 20s and set off for London, as so many young Novocastrians of my generation did in search of careers and culture. But I never underestimated how much my solitary childhood visits to Newcastle Art Gallery helped me realise what it was I was looking for and, in art galleries far grander, what I was looking at.

Years later settled in Sydney, my late partner, fellow Novocastrian Steven Alward, and myself had our first conversation about making a will that included cultural philanthropy. We shared such a strong affection for Newcastle Art Gallery that a bequest seemed obvious. Bequests are such a painless way of giving something back to an arts organisation that has given you joy in life, since in death you aren’t going to feel a thing.

I don’t have children myself, but I do feel that any perceived responsibility of leaving an inheritance to your family doesn’t need to exclude leaving a percentage of your estate, however small, to help create a cultural legacy. It actually sets a wonderful example and precedent for children to follow.

The fact I no longer live in Newcastle is not a factor. So many people raised in Newcastle now live comfortable lives all over the world. We should never forget where we come from, what we owe our hometown and how we can make it better for those who follow. I also know generous supporters of the gallery who have no bond to Newcastle, other than liking the place, but living in capital cities they realise they are spoilt for cultural choice and just want to spread that privilege.

Altruism aside, cultural philanthropy pays a happiness dividend. There’s a great deal of joy to be had in knowing you are helping nurture a love of the arts in a troubled world. At last, we are building the art gallery Novocastrians deserve, a legacy that will outlast all of us. And a vital source of funding for the expansion has come in the form of a bequest, a remarkable act of kindness by the late Valerie Ryan, setting an example for us all to follow.



Bequest Help

If you would like more information about bequests, or want to chat about what you might bequeath, please contact the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation.