COMMENT: Bega regional art gallery expansion a question of space, time

Finalists in the 2012 Shirley Hannan National Award for Portraiture.
Finalists in the 2012 Shirley Hannan National Award for Portraiture.

This week sees our regional art gallery hit even loftier heights than already achieved, with the Archibald Prize regional tour arriving.

All 51 finalists of the 2016 Archibald Prize for portraiture will be hung on the walls of the Bega Valley Regional Gallery ahead of the grand opening on Friday night.

Well, not quite all.

We hear at least one of the artworks is simply too big to fit in the gallery space and could get a spot to itself in the new civic centre instead.

The limitations of our regional gallery have long been known and reported. The work of the Valley’s own nationally renowned portrait artist, Shirley Hannan, has been used in previous arguments for significant expansion or development of a more suitable gallery space.

In 2014, the Hannan family gifted her collected works – around 160 pieces all up – to the gallery and the people of the Bega Valley. It is a significant and valuable collection with plenty of deserved plaudits heading the way of Shirley’s family. However, there were concerns over where the collection could be suitably stored – certainly not at the current gallery.

More recently, an improved and expanded space more in keeping with a “regional gallery” of Bega Valley’s growing status was also raised as a key focus for the council’s community strategic plan.

Focus groups reviewing community submissions to the BVSC Understanding Our Place delivery program covered several key service areas, including sustainable living, education and employment, liveable places, connected communities, strong and consultative leadership, and active and healthy communities.

It was in this last topic area where the cultural achievements on this region and its eclectic mix of people came to the fore.

Feedback from the community included key points like wanting to see more arts and entertainment activities, more use and support for community halls and centres...and more arts spaces, including a purpose built gallery.

As reported last week, one of the key messages from around the focus group tables seemed to be to change the delivery plan’s language from “this is what we’d like to see”, to “this is what we’re going to do”.

So what are we going to do? Having the Archibald finalists visit is a big coup for our small gallery. But is expanding the space a big priority? Write in and let us know.


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