Bega Valley Regional Gallery director Iain Dawson is positive the space will benefit from a new four-year state government funding arrangement.
While Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro has announced $600million will be provided to the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Theatre Company and the Art Gallery of NSW, regional galleries, community halls, libraries and museums will have to compete for a cut of a $100million Regional Cultural Fund.
The cultural infrastructure funding was promised before the 2015 election from money raised after the privatisation of state-owned electricity assets.
Mr Dawson said he is excited to work with the NSW government’s new agency for arts, screen and culture, Create NSW to “bring the regional gallery up to the standard the community deserves”.
“It is an amazing opportunity to have access to this funding,” Mr Dawson said.
The gallery has been collecting data via surveys over the past 12 months, netting information from visitors including where they are from, and how much they spend while visiting the region.
Mr Dawson said the gallery is becoming a tourism drawcard for the Bega Valley.
“We want to show we can have an economic effect on the region,” Mr Dawson said.
“We are the only gallery in a 400km radius, and we are regarded as the second most active region in grant applications behind the Northern Rivers.”
State shadow arts minister Walt Secord compared the funding announcement to the Hollywood film The Hunger Games, criticising it for its “dog-eat-dog competitive nature”.
“While I welcome any funds for rural and regional communities, I am unable – in good conscience – to welcome this announcement,” Mr Secord said.
“Sadly, under the Nationals, rural and regional families are not getting their fair share from the state government – and this needs to change.”
Arts Minister Don Harwin said regional areas have a “rich history of contributing to the Australian identity expressed through all forms of the arts”.
“Investing in arts and culture facilities and programs in the bush will provide recreational and educational benefits as well as increased tourist visitation, which in turn helps art practitioners expand their networks and enter new markets,” he said.