top of page


Portland’s Council for Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) was established in 1945, along a model set up in war time Britain to raise public morale through participation in the arts.
The “umbrella” nature of the organisation was adopted to allow groups of like-minded individuals to meet and participate in a variety of arts and cultural pursuits. The structure has allowed the organisation to remain relevant to the artistic fashions and demands over the decades.


For the first 28 years Portland CEMA conducted cultural and artistic activities in homes, halls, commercial premises and sheds.  Early members recognised the need for a permanent home and an arts centre for Portland and had a vision for the future.

Between 1966 and 1974 CEMA set up an Arts Centre Building Appeal, developed plans for a purpose built Arts Centre and raised the sum of $30,536.37 locally. ( According to the Reserve Bank of Australia inflation calculator this would be equivalent to $245,114 in 2017 ) This was a substantial volunteer contribution.

The Portland Council and Portland CEMA jointly attracted State and Federal Government Grants of $104.722.83. Council contributed land then valued at $18,000 , and rate revenue of $3,473.70, and accepted responsibility for major maintenance of the Centre.

Portland CEMA members then fitted out the Kitchen with crockery, cutlery, a refrigerator and stove ($2,700) and provided additional furniture and 50% of stage lighting, and additional grey curtains for the stage ($3,700). 

The dream became a reality in 1974 when the building opened. It was named CEMA Arts Centre in recognition of the contribution the organisation had made.

From 1975 Portland Council and Portland CEMA jointly funded the salary of a Community Arts Officer. A management committee which included four Portland CEMA representatives looked after the hiring and maintenance of the building and the employment of the first Community Arts Officers. This arrangement continued through to 1983 when the management of the building was handed over to the Portland Town Council.

Portland CEMA’s contribution and special relationship with the building was further recognised by a Lease which enabled groups to continue their activities at a reasonable cost, whilst allowing many other groups to hire the building. A succession of Leases and Licences based on the original premise have enabled the arts in Portland to flourish.

During the 1980s and 1990s needs for improvements were recognised and two major additions were made to the CEMA Arts Centre. A courtyard was filled in to become the Woolcock Gallery. This was officially opened in 1990. A backstage extension including a costume storage area was added in 1993. The Council contributed $60,000 and the Ministry of the Arts contributed $45,000 out of a total of $137,000 for these projects. Portland CEMA also contributed financially and in kind to both of these projects. In 1995 Portland CEMA contributed $8000 towards the installation of a mezzanine storage floor in the backstage area of the building.

Portland CEMA became incorporated in May 1986.

CEMA inc groups were involved in many community arts projects during the 1980s and 1990s and the Visual Arts groups needed more space and facilities than were available at the CEMA Arts Centre.

The need for a home for visual arts groups was recognised and after intense lobbying and fundraising The Arts Company was opened in 1995. This complex which includes a retail outlet for artists works, workshop space and artist accommodation was recently renamed Julia Street Creative Space.

In 2000 Portland CEMA inc  was endorsed as a deductible gift recipient and an income tax exempt charitable entity. Through its public fund it has supported worthy projects allowing local students and artists to follow pursuits and bring expertise to Portland for workshops.

The CEMA Arts centre building was renamed in 2005 as the Portland Arts Centre as part of Glenelg Shire Council’s re branding. A sign was placed at the front of the building in recognition of the long relationship CEMA has with the building. The main gallery was then named the CEMA gallery.

July 2020 marked 75 years of continuous arts activity. 

CEMA inc’s groups continue to give people of Portland and District many artistic and social opportunities.



Encouraging Music and the Arts in Portland since 1945

bottom of page