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Artful . . . Forrester Gallery educator and engagement officer Elizabeth King admires some of the work that students of Glenavy School have contributed to the Burns 50 annual memorial art exhibition. PHOTOS: ASHLEY SMYTH

The Forrester Gallery’s most popular exhibition is back and better than ever to celebrate its 50th year.

The Burns Memorial Art Exhibition, this year called “Burns 50”, showcases artwork from schools, kindergartens and playcentres all around the district. It was forced online last year because the gallery was closed for renovations.

Gallery educator and engagement officer Elizabeth King said it was great to have the show back at the Forrester this year.

Artwork from 29 schools and early childhood centres was occupying all the rooms, which meant it could be spread out and really showcased.

“It’s unusual that a gallery lets children’s art take over. It’s something special in our district.”

The Burns Memorial was the exhibiton that brought the highest number of visitors each year, with children and their families, as well as school groups, coming through.

Mrs King said with Covid-19 throwing a spanner in the works for everyone this year, she had not been sure schools would be organised for this year’s exhibition.

“It’s been a difficult year for everyone. I was just happy to go with the flow and see what came in.”

Over this time, people had come to appreciate that art was quite important, she said.

“We have some interesting Covid-related masks.”

The exhibition began in 1970 and is named after George Burns (1903-70), who was born and educated in Oamaru and was editor of the Christchurch Star.

During his time at the Star, the paper ran an annual schools art exhibition throughout the South Island.

Although this exhibition no longer takes place, the Burns Memorial Art Exhibition has been held each since his death.

The exhibition was first held in the Athenaeum above the Waitaki Museum and run by the North Otago Art Society.

In 1984 the venue was changed to the Forrester Gallery, where it has been held ever since.

Every child who visits the exhibition has been asked to make a flag to add to the celebratory bunting which is hanging in the gallery reception space. There is also a drawing challenge that can be started in the gallery and taken home to finish.

Because this year was “Burns 50”, Mrs King was looking into the history of the exhibition over the past 50 years, and sharing what she found in a series of blogs. She was eager to hear from people with memories of the show, and there was also a visitor’s book where people could add their recollections, she said.

The exhibition runs until Sunday, October 18.