FORMER local boy made good Iain Dawson is excited ahead of next week’s launch of the 2014 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award.
Mr Dawson is on a 12-month contract as curator of the Bega Valley Regional Gallery, where the timing of his appointment “has been genius!”
He arrived part way through the well-received Wild Art exhibition, has led the BVRG through the current regional showcase of wood-fired ceramics as part of On the Edge of the Shelf and now is in charge of the third-richest art prize in Australia, which opens on May 30.
Mr Dawson is a former local lad, who went to Eden Marine High School before heading off to study at the Canberra School of Art.
A Masters of Museum Studies at Sydney University is also in his portfolio.
He has run commercial galleries in Sydney as well as his own projects in contemporary art and with emerging artists.
There is also some marketing and events experience in his resume.
“Through serendipity more than anything I have been across all the aspects needed to be in a position like this [regional gallery curator],” Mr Dawson said this week.
“And the timing has been genius.
“To walk in to a fully formed program for the year is a blessing.
“The previous curator [Megan Bottari] had a great program set up and I’m now lucky enough to put the work together.”
Mr Dawson said he is looking forward to using the BVRG space “in a new way – it’s all fresh to me”.
“There has always been amazing work coming through this gallery and I want to build on that.
“This region is rich in culture and there is strong support for the gallery.
“I want to bring the best work from around the country to Bega – to inspire and to potentially offer mentorships to local artists.”
Speaking of amazing work from around the country, Mr Dawson has been receiving finalists’ entries in the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award this week ahead of its May 30 opening.
“Some really stand out for me – these are fantastic painters who are represented in commercial galleries around the world.
“Some Moran and Archibald finalists have even come through to us this year.
“The Shirley Hannan attracts incredible artists and it’s building every time.”
Included among the finalists are three Bega Valley artists - Anna Buck of Bega, Ann Brosnan of Pambula and Stan Squire of Pambula
“I’m thrilled we have some fantastic locals as well," Mr Dawson said.
“I think it is a really strong field.
“The word is getting out this is one prize to go for.”
The Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award opens on May 30 where the winner will be announced. The exhibition of finalists continues at the BVRG until July 5.
CONCERNS over Bega Valley Regional Gallery curator Iain Dawson’s past were brought to the attention of the BDN this week.
However, Mr Dawson said he hoped to move on from “that story that won’t die” and focus on bringing his skills and “a breath of fresh air” to the Bega Valley.
In June 2013, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Mr Dawson was being chased by numerous artists for tens of thousands of dollars owed to them.
It was reported he took their art works on consignment, sold them at his gallery and then spent the proceeds.
When the news came to light, Mr Dawson was spared the sack as guest manager of the 2013 Sydney Contemporary event on the condition his wages were handed over to the six artists.
This week, Mr Dawson repeated his apology to those artists to whom he has outstanding debts.
“I have a payment plan in place with all the creditors,” he said.
“I feel I’ve moved on and addressed those issues.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the local arts community who have already been very welcoming and supportive.”
Bega Valley Shire Council's acting group manager of community and relationships, Simon Schweitzer, said the council was aware of Mr Dawson's history "and the matter has been satisfactorily dealt with internally".
"This is a personal matter for Mr Dawson and we will not engage in further discussion other than to say that we are very happy with the experience, energy and skill that Iain is bringing to the regional gallery," Mr Schweitzer said.
"His work in generating local and national interest in the upcoming Shirley Hannan prize, for example, is returning great results for the shire, community and gallery."