UQ Art Museum Director Dr Campbell Gray shares his personal insights into the most generous gift that the arts at UQ have ever received.
To ‘leave the world a bit better’ was one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s measures of a successful life. Paula and Tony Kinnane certainly achieved this. They lived near the UQ campus and shared a deep affinity with the area and the University.
However, they had spent much of their earlier lives in regional Queensland with Tony’s work in the mining industry, during which time Paula had worked as a kindergarten teacher. She loved the arts – music, visual arts of all kinds and the theatre – and believed they could ignite something wonderful within her students. Paula also saw first-hand how limited the opportunities to participate in the arts were outside of the city centres.
As I got to know Paula, she invited us to visit her home to view the art collection that adorned their walls. She loved what the UQ Art Museum was doing and what it stood for and indicated a desire to see items from her collection cared for by the UQ Art Museum when she passed. I was humbled by her generosity and inspired by her passion.
Sadly, Paula’s husband Tony passed away in 2011. In time, we began to see more of Paula at the Art Museum. She was a valued and lively member of our community of supporters, regularly attending openings and public programs, often with her friends. She found the environment rewarding, and whole-heartedly supported the Art Museum’s educational mission.
Paula was passionate about things that made life worth living – the things that ‘made your soul sing – art, music and culture’. Despite knowing this, I’ll never forget the day I received word that Paula had decided to bequeath her estate to the UQ Art Museum and UQ School of Music. I was surprised and grateful.
The deliberate, forward-looking and disciplined way that Paula went about planning her legacy was counterbalanced by an excitement for the difference she knew it would make to students’ lives. By making these decisions before her passing, Paula had the opportunity to shape the way her generous gift would be used – and education was at the heart of those decisions.
In August 2014, we were deeply saddened to hear of Paula’s sudden passing. Plans for her bequest were activated, and over the ensuing months, this translated into an extraordinary gift of $8 million to establish two endowment funds to benefit the UQ Art Museum and the UQ School of Music.
Paula was one of the UQ Art Museum’s closest friends, so it has been bitter sweet to see the gift of a friend unfolding, but at the same time it has been a privilege to witness the celebration of the arts, of students and of the value of education.
Paula’s incredible generosity will allow the UQ Art Museum to establish internships to provide students with gallery and museum-specific skills and, in partnership with the UQ Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, establish undergraduate and PhD scholarships with a special focus in museum theory and practice.
In addition, Paula had a strong desire to give back to regional Queensland, where she and Tony had lived for many years. She requested that the UQ Art Museum build capacity in regional galleries and we have already begun to research ways that this might occur to maximum benefit – a challenge we embrace with energy.
It’s hard to fathom the impact Paula and Tony’s gift will have on the arts in Queensland. The recipients of these funds are the future of the visual-arts profession in Australia, and their potential to inspire, lead and teach in this field, is endless. As one of the two guardians of Paula and Tony Kinnane’s legacy, the UQ Art Museum will honour their gift by ensuring the greatest possible impact is made.
Every gift, whether given during your lifetime or after, will help UQ Art Museum deliver dynamic exhibitions and public programs that enrich the education of students and our community, as well as build, research and conserve a significant collection of Australian art for future generations. Find our more or donate now.