Our History

For over forty-four years Arts Project Australia has supported the artistic aspirations of artists with an intellectual disability.

Myra Hilgendorf OAM founded Arts Project Australia in 1974 with the insistence that intellectually disabled artists’ work be presented in a professional manner and that artists were accorded the same dignity and respect as their non-disabled peers. Myra’s own experience of more than 20 years caring for her daughter Johanna, an artist with an intellectual disability, led her to pursue quality opportunities and resources for others. She and her colleagues took a major step in bringing the work to the attention of the art world and general public.

Key dates

1974

Arts Project Australia established by Myra Hilgendorf OAM. Starts producing professionally mounted exhibitions, forming a core part of Arts Project Australia's original mission.

Myra and Joanna Hilgendorf

1984

Studio workshop program commences at the Moorakyne stables, Lisson Grove, Hawthorn.

1986

Arts Project Australia becomes an Incorporated Association.

Fiona Longhurst , Not titled (house with two figures), 1998, pastel on paper, 50 x 65 cm

1994

Artists exhibit internationally at MADMuseé and Centre d'Art Differencié, Belgium. Artist Julian Martin selected for the Moët & Chandon Touring Exhibition.

2003

Arts Project Australia moves to current location at 24 High St, Northcote.

2011

Arts Project Australia is recognised by the Melbourne Awards for its 'Contribution to Community'.

Adrian Salvatore, 2011, Melbourne Cup 2011 winning jockey and horse

2012

Arts Project Australia and Leonard Joel Auction House receive an 'Arts Partnership Award' from the Australian Business and Arts Foundation.

Arts Partnership Award (

2013

Arts Project Australia's collection deemed to have international significance by National Gallery of Australia significance assessment.

2014

Three Arts Project artists feature in Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and a significant collection of work by Alan Constable and Boris Cipusev is acquired.

2014

Transformer, Julian Martin's retrospective exhibition, takes place. Martin among other artists are represented by Fleisher/Ollman in the USA at The Armory Show and Outsider Art Fair (both NY).

2014

Arts Project Australia hosts international Outsider Art Conference in partnership with the University of Melbourne, hosting many prestigious local and international speakers.

2015

Artist Terry Williams has a sell-out solo show at White Columns, New York, curated by Ricky Swallow.

2016

Arts Project Australia receives an 'Outstanding Organisation' Award at the HESTA Community Sector Awards, recognising its contribution to the community.

Outstanding Organisation – 2016 HESTA Community Sector Awards

2016

Arts Project Australia presents a pop-up gallery in Collins Place for one month, supported by NKN Gallery and Gandel Philanthropy.

Collins Place Pop-up Gallery, CBD Melbourne

2017

Arts Project Australia hosted ‘Looking Outside the Box’, a national forum for supported studios across Australia, welcoming over 50 supported studio staff working in the sector.

2018

Arts Project Australia gets a facelift to increase the organisation's street-front visibility.

Arts Project Australia

2018

Arts Project Australia earns an 'Excellence in Employment Outcomes Award' from the Victorian Disability Awards, for its career pathway offerings for artists.

Eden Menta - Photo Kate Longley

2018

Arts Project Australia won a community partnership with Yarra Trams, which saw an APA tram hit the streets in 2018. Artists Warren O’Brien and Cathy Staughton had their work featured.

Yarra Trams, Warren O'Brien