Invercargill combined art gallery 'number one priority' for city vibrancy

A combined art facility in the Invercargill CBD is one idea on the cards at the hands of the Southland Regional ...
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ

A combined art facility in the Invercargill CBD is one idea on the cards at the hands of the Southland Regional Development Strategy.

An arts development for Invercargill could be the single biggest driver to better inner-city life, a regional strategy chairman says. 

The Southland Regional Development Strategy could combine three art collections, The Southland Museum and Art Gallery, the Southland Art Foundation Trust art collection and the Invercargill Public Art collection, formerly of Anderson House, in a proposed inner-city art facility. 

Strategy chairman Tom Campbell said he saw the proposed gallery as "number one priority" for the city. 

"The new art gallery in the city will be probably the single biggest thing that would improve the vibrancy in the city and bring more people to visit here."

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The real question was what collections would go where, Campbell said.

"The key question for SoRDS is what the arts community and historians want, and we've got to take on board their views. They are major stake holders." 

The eventual development could be in the hands of the Invercargill City Council, Campbell said. 

As with mall, hotel, and museum ideas, Campbell said there was not yet a proposed location for the art gallery. 

However, it would be ideal if people could walk in the CBD and visit several places. 

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Campbell said the future of the museum collection, currently in Queens Park, was less certain. 

"The museum is another one that will be very important, but obviously we've got to acknowledge that there is a limit in how much money is available for these things. 

"We certainly can't do everything at once." 

Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board chairman Lloyd Esler said the trust was already in agreeance about potential art collection amalgamation. 

However, ownership of the art collections would be the issue to look at, he said. 

"It just makes sense for them to all be exhibited as one collection." 

Esler said storage for the Southland Art Foundation, currently at the Southland Museum, needed improvement. 

"It's stored in the museum, which is okay. But there's not a lot of storage left." 

"We're hoping the new gallery in the town would be a real world class facility, because paintings need to be kept in a constant temperature and humidity." 

Both Anderson House and the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, which house two major art collections, are awaiting upgrades. 

However, both respective collections would need to be moved if the alterations were to be started. 

Esler said the museum roof needed to be replaced because it was no longer fully compliant with fire regulations, and had been "an ongoing issue".

The inner-city development was what Esler expected the strategy to recommend. 

"I am hoping the council are going to take on board what the SoRDS group recommend, because it's really our best shot at giving our city a good boost." 

Joan Kiernan of the Southland Art Foundation said the move would be "very expensive and ambitious" and she was not sure how it would be achieved. 

"We have no resources or availability to make it happen. I'm just naturally cautious about how long to it might take to make it happen." 

The positive was not better storage, but better accessibility, and an improved space would allow the collection to be seen by the public, Kiernan said. 

The Southland Museum and Art Gallery was currently holding an exhibition to display some of the works from the foundation, she said.

The Invercargill Public Art Gallery, who cares for the art collection currently housed at Anderson House, also advocate for an inner-city location. 

Invercargill Public Art Gallery president Dave Kennedy could not be reached for comment. 

 - Stuff

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