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New Bunbury Regional Art Gallery director “loving it”

Nicole SalmeriSouth Western Times
Bunbury Regional Art Gallery Director Joanna Bates.
Camera IconBunbury Regional Art Gallery Director Joanna Bates. Credit: Shannon Verhagen

After following her passion of art and history across the globe, Joanne Baitz has now landed her dream job as the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery director and is “loving it”.

After more than 30 years, the South African-born mother of two said although she had loved her many years spent in Canada, she wanted to bring her kids up in a warmer climate.

“I grew up in a beachside city like Bunbury with great beaches and big surfing culture and not an art gallery in sight,” Joanne said.

“I left South Africa in 1981 and went to Canada for a while and then Melbourne and then Perth.

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“In Canada I got my first job in a small commercial gallery and studied art. I went to art school there for a while.

We spent five winters in Canada and that was enough, I couldn’t deal with it anymore so we decided we wanted some sun.

Joanne Baitz

“I had a newborn baby and didn’t want to bring her up in the snow, so we moved to Melbourne and then my one sister moved to Perth, so we went over to visit and fell in love with the place so decided to stay.

“I spent 30 years in Perth — I went back to uni as a mature-age student and I did an undergrad in fine art and English and then got out of art and got into freelance writing.

Bunbury Regional Art Gallery Director Joanna Baitz.
Camera IconBunbury Regional Art Gallery Director Joanna Baitz. Credit: Shannon VerhagenPicture:

Having travelled across the world, Joanne felt at home again, and has been living and working in Bunbury for the past 10 months.

I love the walkability of Bunbury, I love the fact that everything is within walking distance. It is a really easy city to live in and I love the climate.

Joanne Baitz

For Joanne, there has always been art in the family and her love for art has defined who she is as a person today.

“I remember when I was very, very young sitting with my mum waiting for my older sister to come out of school and we would all draw together, then I studied art in high school,” she said.

“I also loved history, loved art and I loved English so I guess those three things have always defined what I’ve done throughout my life.

“There was a certain type of art that I always love which is the pro-European style and the mark of rock art and that very pure mark, and there is such a correlation between the line and the strength of the line and those are the practices that really appeal to me.

“I’ve got two daughters and my husband, who still lives in Perth, but I’ve got a really, really supportive family.

“My kids are grown up so this is my time to do what I need to do and this is the first time I have ever had a place entirely of my own and I love it. My husband is backwards and forwards down here and I’m also backwards and forwards to Perth.”

Joanne’s new role in Bunbury is more fast-paced than she first anticipated but she said the team she was working with made her job a “dream”. “I love being in this building, I think it is the most incredible building and it has such a great history and it is so iconic,” she said.

I think working with this team has been incredible, they are an amazing bunch of people and they make my job so much easier and the support we get from the City of Bunbury is just awesome.

Joanne Baitz

“You are your own creation.”

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