Petition to save art gallery managers

MORE than 1300 people have signed a petition calling on Newcastle council to reverse its decision to merge senior managerial positions at the art gallery and museum, and resist plans to charge art gallery entry fees.

The move is the latest in a long-running battle between the council and art gallery supporters that hit boiling point last month when the council sacked two senior staff over their roles in the acquisition of the Brett Whiteley-designed Black Totem II sculpture.

The council last month began a national search for a single manager of its cultural institutions including the art gallery, museum and Civic Theatre.

Gallery supporter Janet Adler later began a petition on online campaign site change.org, calling on the council to retain the individual managerial roles at the gallery and museum.

It also called on the council to "block the introduction of admission charges to our gallery and museum" and give "unbiased, unadulterated facts regarding the donation of the Brett Whiteley sculpture".

By yesterday, the petition had collected 1300 signatures.

One signatory, James McMaster of Cooks Hill, likened the dual management role to "combining the coaching roles of the Knights and Jets, using assistant coaches to run the teams and still expecting both teams to be competitive, retain their best players, while attracting decent crowds to their games".

"It wouldn't work [and it wouldn't happen!]," he wrote.

In an email sent to gallery supporters, the president of Regional and Public Galleries Association of NSW Brett Adlington said Newcastle council "also instructed that admission charges be brought into place for the 2014-15 council budget".

Currently, entry to the gallery is free unless there is a major travelling exhibition on show. The council said yesterday its next budget had not been formulated, but it didn't rule out the possibility of entrance fees.

"Council will consider strategies to facilitate payments for the facilities we provide regionally so that those from outside the local government area that attend share the costs and not just local ratepayers," the council said.

"The fact that Newcastle is the city supporting the Hunter and provides services to many non-residents is one of the factors giving rise to our financial challenges and the burden needs to be spread to those that use the facilities rather than just our ratepayers."

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