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Centro Italiano d'Arte (Italian Art Centre) Melbourne

Sign - Italo-Australian Artists Exhibition, circa 1962

Image: Sign - Italo-Australian Artists Exhibition, circa 1962

Source: Museum Victoria

The Centro Italiano D'Arte (Italian Art Centre) was founded in Melbourne in 1962 with its offices at 193 Lygon Street Carlton. The driving force behind the foundation of the Centro Italiano D'Arte was Ernesto Murgo. Ernesto was born in L'Aquila Abruzzo in Italy in 1931. He arrived in Australia in the 1950s and was sent to Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre. He picked grapes in Mildura before finding work as a monumental mason in Nicholson Street Fitzroy. In 1963 he completed an art course at RMIT, where he taught while also undertaking freelance commissions.

Ernesto and fellow artists Marcello D'Amico, P. Petrucelli and Vincenzo Basile formed the Centro Italiano D'Arte, meeting informally at a café facing the Museum, Art Gallery and Library building in Swanston Street. They then moved to upstairs offices in the Borsari Emporium in Lygon Street, Carlton, then St Luke's Church Hall, on the corner of Brunswick Street and St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, then to 193 Lygon Street, Carlton and finally to 46-48 Rathdowne Street, Carlton.

The Centre's aims were to promote artistic talent and debate artistic issues; exhibit its members' artworks through exhibitions, publications, conferences and courses; bring together Italian artists; and put Italian artists in touch with other local artists. Exhibitions were held in the early 1960s in St Kilda and onboard the S/S Marconi, while it was docked at Station Pier. The Centre also helped to establish the Scuola Italiana d'Arte (Italian Art School) at 393 Abbotsford Street, North Melbourne.

Ernesto returned to Italy with his wife Shirley McIntosh in 1966 to complete an art scholarship. In 1968 he became a resident artist for the Transfield Group when he established the Fabrication Shop at Seven Hills. This was a non-ferrous foundry for the casting of bronze sculptures, the first of its kind in Australia. In later years Ernesto accepted only private commissions.

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