Transforming Tasmania: Remarks on the passing of Dick Bett
Ours is a city transforming. Those of us who grew up in Hobart in the 1950s and 60s can still recall, even if we reject the extremity of the criticism, the place Peter Conrad described in “Where I fell to earth”—as a community of impoverished imaginations and dismal dreaming.
Town--planning documents had proposed the demolition of Salamanca Place for urban renewal but it was in there, then a then near wasteland, Dick established up his first commercial gallery. History changed. He did not just buy and sell art; he created a creative hub, a catalytic expanding network of creative enterprises.
Dick’s legacy lives on unseen in the imaginations that he inspired. His mentoring and enthusiasm inspired a generation of young Tasmanians to become excited about a future in the visual arts. Many are now our leading artists.
They write, sculpt and paint and renew the transformation of our city.
His legacy lives on unseen in the vibrant cosmopolitan life of the streets of Salamanca and North Hobart and in the fact we are excited by rather than repelled by MONA.
His legacy lives on unseen in national consciousness—he curated Sculpture by the Sea at the Tasman Peninsula 2001, now grown beyond our state. He curated the Olympic Arts Festival 1998.
And Dick Bett’s legacy will live on unseen through Carol, Emma and Jack, into whose hands the management of the Bett Gallery now passes.
And his legacy lives on unseen in the liveliness of our city transforming—remade because of him and those that he inspired. Our community is much much the richer from his too brief time amongst us.
2 December 2011