Bega Valley's South East Centre for Contemporary Art had its official opening ceremony on Friday, November 17, with a number of esteemed guests experiencing the redeveloped and rejuvenated gallery for the first time.
The new gallery was filled with natural light and a long cry from the regional gallery on whose footprint it sits, all the better to enjoy 57 stunning portraits from the 2023 Archibald Prize, which is touring regional galleries.
The gallery and exhibition spaces will open to the public on Saturday, November 18.
Aunty Glenda Dixon gave a warm welcome to country within the newly opening Bega gallery before Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain shared how the space will become the heart of the district's cultural trails, and thanked the determination of gallery director Iain Dawson for his hard work.
"From driving economic growth in the Bega Valley through increased tourism - to bringing people together like never before, this purpose-built space will really transform how we showcase local, regional and touring art," Ms McBain said.
Mr Dawson described how he felt after unveiling the gallery as a moment not filled with nerves but with empathetic excitement, since those attending were understanding of gallery's journey to completion.
Uncle David Dixon, having conducted the smoking ceremony outside alongside the Mayor, MPs and councillors, stood gazing at another proud Indigenous man, Latrell Mitchell, captured in two perspectives on two canvases through acrylic, oil and rosewater on linen.
"He's a good representative of our people nationally and internationally and it was good to see the two portraits of him as well, the football player sports star and the human being family man," Uncle David said of the diptych.
Among those watching on, a tall gentleman wearing a shirt covered in birds inspired by his love of avian photography, gripped on to a small artist's sketchpad where he had marked ideas for future portraits, simultaneously mesmerised by the crisp and pristine gallery space.
Opening the gallery without scissors or a ribbon but through his speech, Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said the gallery will help put the shire on the map as it extended the artistic and cultural footprint of the district.
"Well here we are at last in SECCA, and it's nothing short of spectacular," Mr Fitzpatrick said.
"As we stand here with 57 portraits looking at the gallery's new guests, it is time for all eyes in the community to focus on this incredible asset for the Bega Valley Shire."
The 2023 Archibald Prize exhibition will be running from November 18, 2023 to January 7, 2024 at SECCA, Bega. Click here for tickets.
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