In the late 1940s, Sir Claude Hotchin began making art bequests to country Shire Councils with the intention of giving country people access to art, to encourage local artists, and to promote the notion of establishing regional collections.
In 1948, Sir Claude made the first donation of what was to become a total of 22 works, to the then Town of Bunbury. In a letter to the MLA for Bunbury, Sir Claude wrote: 'I have a desire to do something for the country folk of our great State, in the way of presenting to one of our larger country towns a group of 20 original works from the brushes of famous and noted Australian artists. My idea is that of wanting to raise the standard of art appreciation.'
From 1948 until the late 1950s, the Society of Artists managed and acquired works for the Collection, until the Collections Committee was set up under the Local Government Act. Since then, the Society of Artists has been represented on the Committee.
True to the spirit in which Sir Claude Hotchin donated the works, the Bunbury Collection has continued to grow. It is now one of the most important regional Collections in Australia.
Members of the Collections Committee made wise decisions and with the continued support of the City of Bunbury Council, the Collection did not stagnate, or remain frozen in time.
The City purchased the old Convent of Mercy to permanently house and exhibit the Collection and to provide the community with the Bunbury Regional Art Galleries.
The Art Collections Committee receives an annual grant from the City of Bunbury to acquire, conserve and exhibit the collection. The collection is estimated to now have more than 1100 pieces.