The refurbished Rusten House. Photo: Helen Musa.

QUEANBEYAN’S former hospital has been reborn as a restored art centre, with the official opening of the new Rusten House Art Centre this afternoon (April 22).

Members of the arts community, historical society, healthcare services and families of key figures throughout the history of Rusten House joined project staff to witness the unveiling of a plaque to mark the official opening of the new art centre that has transformed the previously run-down building.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Mayor, Tim Overall, said that Rusten House was an important part of Queanbeyan’s history after beginning life as a hospital in 1862 and that many prominent families whose names are scattered across Queanbeyan’s history had funded and contributed to the establishment and operation of Rusten House including the Gale, Campbell, Rutledge, Collett and Wright families.

View through the kitchen to the exhibition of the history of Rusten House.

“The building was constructed of local mixed stone and wood at the grand cost of 1,051 pounds… community fundraising initiatives including carnivals and balls helped keep Rusten House operating, even during the depression, until a new hospital was constructed and Rusten House was converted into nurses’ quarters,” he said.

Rusten House is named after Matron Rusten, who was employed along with her husband to care for the ill of the district until 1875. It has had many purposes over the years including as a hospital, nurses’ quarters, a home to various allied health services and even a café.

The building is also strongly associated with one of the region’s most respected Aboriginal elders, Queen Nellie Hamilton, who passed away in care in 1897.

Bungendore sculptor Keith Bender with an outdoor work at the centre. Photo: Helen Musa.

The restoration and transformation of Rusten House into a new art centre started in 2013 with a grant from the NSW Government Premier's Rural and Regional grants fund. It was further made possible through the Justice and Liquor NSW Infrastructure grant fund, with matched funding from Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council and the NSW Government Stronger Communities fund.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said, “We knew that we had a big job ahead of us when it came to revamping this beautiful heritage-listed property, and I’m so proud of what both NSW government and QPRC have been able to achieve.”

An exhibition of the history of Rusten House will be on display until June 15 alongside the inaugural exhibit “QPRC Artscape – celebrating the diversity of artists in the region”, which features the works of nine local artists.

Rusten House Art Centre is open Wednesday to Saturday, 10am-4pm.

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Ian Meikle, editor