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The permanent collection, which was first started in 1948, gained pace with the formation of the Lismore Arts Trust and the Lismore Art Prize in 1953. The following year, Lismore Regional Gallery was established in its home in the Trench Building on Molesworth Street.  Since this first donation the collection has grown to almost 1000 works, acquired primarily through kind donations from individuals.

Like many regional collections throughout the country, the Lismore Art Prize was an impetus to develop an art collection of national standing. In the early years of the prize, the Gallery acquired works by artists such as Margaret Olley, Jon Molvig, Arthur Murch, Jack Kilgour and Peter Powditch.

Over subsequent years the collection has grown to house works by other notable artists such as Lloyd Rees, Albert Namatjira, Thea Proctor, and Kevin Connor, while also collecting works by important Northern Rivers artists such as Jan Davis, Bronwyn Bancroft, Digby Moran, Angus McDonald, James Guppy, Patsy Hely and Michael John Taylor.

The Gallery also holds a unique collection of photographs giving prominence to the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, perhaps the most famous of the region’s many local celebrations. More recent additions include works by Tim Hixson documenting houses built in the region in the post-Aquarius years, and New Zealand photographer Laurence Aberhart’s work of the Nimbin Museum.

In 2017, Lismore Regional Gallery relocated to its new premises at the Lismore Quadrangle. Here there is a dedicated gallery space for other key works from the permanent collection.

The collection was made available online with the generous support of the Gordon Darling Foundation.