OPINION: Art gallery needs commitment

NEWCASTLE City Council this week called for a definitive response from the state government as to whether it will contribute $7 million towards redevelopment of the Newcastle Art Gallery.

 No further deliberations or work on the gallery will  proceed until we have a  definitive response.

 To date, the council has contributed $7million, the federal government $7million – and from the state government, nothing.

Newcastle Art Gallery is the council’s single largest asset, being  valued at more than $60million. 

It was  built in 1977 and can currently display less than 2per cent of its collection.  The loading dock is also not secure.

The gallery cannot, therefore, procure lucrative international exhibitions that require secure loading facilities for multimillion dollar exhibitions.

The expansion would allow the gallery to hold international exhibitions and be the focus of arts tourism in the Hunter. 

If the university goes ahead with its civic redevelopment, and the law courts are completed, this area will be a hub of civic activity.

 A new gallery shop, commercial space along Darby Street, and a new function space are all additional opportunities that would come through the art gallery expansion and   generate  additional income.

In the latest state budget, five Sydney cultural institutions received between $26million and $135million: the Opera House $135.3million, the State Library $85.5million, the Powerhouse Museum $33million, the Australian Museum $26.5 million (and storage facility $3.1million),  and Art Gallery of NSW $29.3million.

This totals more than $310million. If you took just $1.5million each from these five allocations, you would have $7.5million for our gallery.

In total, the Hunter contributes $629million from state-owned corporations to the state coffers. 

Our port corporation, which handled 122million tonnes of coal in 2011-2012, gave $12million in dividends to Sydney this year. 

Let’s keep that money here to compensate for the coal dust and the industrial byproduct that our community has to put up with to get that coal out of our port, not give it to Sydney coffers for the Opera House or Powerhouse Museum.

The arts have driven the renewal of the Newcastle CBD and  helped get Newcastle listed as a top-10 city in the world in Lonely Planet’s guidebook.

Despite this, the state government has cut funding to vital institutions that have helped achieve this.

In his maiden speech to parliament, the member for Newcastle Tim Owen said: “I am focused also on securing funding for the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery.”  

 We call on the state government to commit to its one third of funding.

  Tim Crakanthorp is a Labor councillor for Ward 2 on Newcastle City Council.   




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