Anderson Park closed for safety

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014

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Anderson Park Art Gallery has been shut after fears for public safety.

The historic art gallery was shut last night after the gallery curator, and its council chairman and representatives met on Tuesday to discuss the future of the earthquake-risk building.

Invercargill City Council parks manager Robin Pagan said the decision was made to close the facility as soon as possible because of fears for the safety of visitors.

"Safety is our primary concern obviously," Mr Pagan said.

"Removing the public [out] of one area gets rid of a reasonable chunk of our concerns."

Staff would remain at the gallery securing artworks and moving them into storage, he said.

But the future of the art gallery remained unknown and the council had commissioned another investigative report, Mr Pagan said.

"We are pushing ahead and getting more investigation done."

He expected to learn next week how long the report would take to get back to council.

Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King said the report would include the cost of repairs that the city council would have to consider stumping up.

He believed the council valued the category one listed building enough to ensure its future.

"I think it is in the forefront of everybody's minds."

The building was just another example of the huge problem Invercargill and the rest of the country faced, Mr King said.

Gallery manager and curator Stephen Davies said he and assistant manager Sarah Brown would remain at the gallery, but the future of the two part-time staff, in the short term, was unknown.

He and Ms Brown would pack away artworks and put them into storage while the invasive investigative work began.

But Mr Davies looked on the situation positively, and he hoped a satellite gallery could be set up so the artworks did not have to be kept from the public.That was something the gallery council might look at doing, he said.

"It could be quite exciting."

The gallery had about 1200 visitors a month, Mr Davies said.

"It would be fantastic if there is someone out there with a building that would love us to be temporary tenants."

Well-known New Zealand artist Ewen McDougall was scheduled to exhibit from May 1 to May 31.

Mr Davies said he had been in contact with him and McDougall was very interested in exhibiting elsewhere if the gallery council managed to secure a pop-up premises.

While scaffolding was likely to be put up around the building at some point, the Classic Hits Winery Tour concert being held in the grounds would still go ahead.

Meanwhile, the Southland Museum and Art Gallery remains open, despite also failing to meet the building code.

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Southland Museum and Art Gallery chairman Darren Ludlow said he did not see the need to shut the museum because it had not failed the building code as badly as Anderson Park.

However, he did not know who would be liable if something happened to the building and people were injured.

- The Southland Times

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