EDITORIAL: Rush vote raises queries on regional gallery

The idea of expanding or moving the shire’s regional art gallery has been floated before, but it’s hard to find someone in the community that saw this coming.

Councillors are being asked to vote this week on a staff-recommended proposal to move the Bega Valley Regional Gallery to a purpose-built facility in Merimbula.

Given no-one we’ve spoken to had any idea this was even an option other than vague suggestions the gallery could do with extra space, why the sudden rush?

Yes there’s money available through a Regional Cultural Fund with a tight deadline for applications. But given the idea hasn’t even been put to the community for consultation and feedback, how are our representatives expected to make a decision on our behalf?

Who or what is behind this extensive development proposal that has found its way into this week’s council meeting agenda, complete with concept artwork and site plans?

We’re also curious as to the general manager’s “surprise” local Fairfax papers carried details of the plans to possibly move the gallery earlier this month given “no-one from the Merimbula News Weekly was at the meeting” she and the mayor had with NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin on August 7.

Just as a point of interest, the concept design proposal for the Merimbula option of a greenfields gallery development is dated August 7.

We appreciate the call for an expanded and more suitable space for a regional art gallery is warranted. We also appreciate the time frame for applications to the Regional Cultural Fund is limited.

But surely the community is entitled to have some idea of what council is planning and voting on before such a significant development push.

In the report for Wednesday’s meeting, the council staff highlight the recent Community Strategic Plan consultations as noting a request for “more arts and creative spaces...or a bigger better art gallery”.

That’s true, but there were rather a lot of other requests thrown around in those brainstorming sessions, of which this editor took some part. And while we don’t deny the pulling power and social wellbeing linked to arts enterprises, it hasn’t been shown as a key priority worthy of such immediate necessity.

In fact, it hasn’t been put to community consultation at all yet.

On a positive note, the speed at which this concept has gone from thought bubble to council meeting table is encouraging if it could be applied to other issues.


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