Initially the art gallery was run on a personal basis and was often referred to by the Humphreys family as ‘Dad’s gallery’. After having run it almost single-handed for nine years, Mr Humphreys’ health began to deteriorate, and it was decided that the time had come to appoint a full-time director/secretary. Mrs Dora Fock assumed this capacity in March 1961. Her wide knowledge of Western culture and art, her energy, and her enthusiasm made her the ideal incumbent of this post which she held with distinction until her retirement in September 1962. The position was filled by Mrs Hilda Smuts in November 1962, and under the able chairpersonship of Basil Humphreys, the art gallery went from strength to strength.
The collection expanded dramatically, and the gallery actively engaged itself in becoming the foremost cultural centre in Kimberley and indeed, in the Northern Cape. Although the staff complement remained small; lectures, film shows, and concerts were presented in addition to an average of nine or ten temporary exhibitions which were held each year. On leaving Kimberley in February 1978, Mrs Smuts resigned and was succeeded by Mrs RJ Holloway who had been on staff since June 1962 in a part-time capacity.
Not content to become a mere repository for works of art, the gallery has done everything possible to promote art in all its forms. If it were to fulfil a valid function, it would have to cater for the cultural interests of board spectrum of the community. Temporary exhibitions have, therefore, covered widely divergent aspects of the arts form more conventional exhibitions of painting and sculpture to ceramics, tapestries, furniture, illustrated books, child art, basketwork, cartoons, and photographs. Certain exhibitions, such as ‘The Treasures of my Home’ exhibition, were mounted to encourage community involvement.
Children’s workshops, started in the early 1980s, have become very popular and have brought children of all races to the art gallery, exposing them to art and art museum environment at an early age. Every encouragement has been given to cultural organisations to use the facilities offered by the art gallery. The Kimberly Theatre Repertory Players’ production, The First Gentleman, was another of the art gallery’s unique undertakings. Described as ‘progressive’ theatre by the producer, the audience moved with each act to another hall, giving the opportunity of viewing the exhibits which were disturbed as little as possible for the performances. This venture brought to the gallery many who had not previously visited it.
As the only art museum in the Northern Cape and indeed as the only art museum in the central region of the country, the institution has an awesome task to fulfil. Vast distances prevent most people in the area visiting it. In an effort to overcome this problem and focus the attention of the public on the institution, it was decided at the beginning of 1983 that works of art from the permanent collection should be taken to the people. This would be achieved by holding small exhibitions in the country. Due to limited staff and facilities, the programme has to be restricted to a degree. Transport and other assistance, however, was provided by the Cultural Affairs Branch of the Department of National Education in Kimberley, whose co-operation in these ventures was invaluable.
The first of these exhibitions was held at Barkly West. The response was sufficiently encouraging to consider mounting similar exhibitions elsewhere. Equally gratifying is the fact that since then approaches have come from further afield inviting the art gallery to present similar exhibitions in their towns.
Few institutions are fortunate enough to have in their formative years men as dedicated to their welfare and progress as were William Humphreys and his son Basil. Until their deaths they gave unstintingly of themselves to the art gallery.
William Humphreys remained a member of the Art Gallery Council and visited the art gallery several times a day, never wholly convinced that his precious charge was in competent hands. To Basil, even when he was deeply involved in creating his own monument which was the Kimberley Mine Museum, the art gallery remained a cherished family concern whose interests he served with boundless enthusiasm until his untimely death in July 1971. It may be said that Basil was the man who nurtured and breathed life into the institution which his father had conceived. Although many men and women have contributed to the progress and development of the institution, the William Humphreys Art Gallery remains a living memorial to the vision and inspiration of its founder and the determination and dedication of his son.