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Named for the surrounding wild olive trees, Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein once served as a state residence before local authorities chose to house the city’s significant art collection in a building deserving of their importance. The museum opened its doors in 1989.
The Oliewenhuis Art Museum encourages and exhibits local art including works created by the Brisley School of Art. Their stated mission is to collect, conserve and exhibit works of art which represent South Africa’s heritage, for the appreciation of current and future generations. Over the years, the Haenggi Foundation in Switzerland has made several generous donations of South African art to the museum.
The 12ha museum gardens are a perfect picnic spot and is where the African carousel is located. The fully operational carousel incorporates Western technology (the carousel itself) with African mythology (the brightly-created creatures representing fabled figures described in African folklore).
Also in the gardens is a sculpture park showcasing sculptures by 11 carefully chosen sculptors, along with 5 beautiful cement and mosaic designs created by local residents.
In 1994, an underground reservoir was discovered below the museum gardens which has since been carefully excavated to retain the existing iron brick support pillars and vaulted roof. The interior of the reservoir is cool and dimmed, the ideal location to exhibit – and preserve – treasured paintings.
The onsite Terrace restaurant serves light meals and offers picnic baskets for those wanting to sit out in the gardens.
The Oliewenhuis Art Museum hosts several events throughout the year. In summer, picnic and movie nights are held on the lawns while museum staff organise various cultural events, a school holiday programme, an urban trail run and regular ceramic art workshops. The museum is proving to be an enabler to creativity and a place to increase the public’s awareness in the importance of the arts.