Hamilton is the only major city in New Zealand without a public art gallery - and it desperately needs one.
That was the message delivered time and again at a packed public lecture at Waikato University on the state of Hamilton's arts scene.
Part of the university's winter lecture series, Wednesday night's address by veteran arts patron Sir James Wallace; Creative Waikato chief executive Sarah Nathan and Waikato University art collection curator Steph Chalmers was a call-to-arms to city leaders to do their bit to establish a dedicated gallery, somewhere near the southern end of Victoria St.
The three speakers said they were equally enthused and frustrated by the challenges facing the arts sector.
While Hamilton had a teeming population of talented artists, writers, actors and other creative people; the audiences for their works were not as great as they could be.
And the infrastructure for supporting both artists and audiences alike was best described as lamentable, Mrs Nathan said.
"I would rate the arts infrastructure a three out of 10, and that is probably a little too generous."
Aside from the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts - where the lecture was held - the city's arts-oriented buildings, such as its three theatres, were aging and equipped with antiquated technology, she said.
A Hamilton City Council review earlier this year had found that Founders Theatre was in need of an urgent upgrade, as were the Clarence Street Theatre and the Meteor Theatre - although a community trust had been set up to take over the management of that facility.
It was the lack of a dedicated public arts gallery that reflected most poorly on the city, she said.
Such a gallery would bring tourists and economic benefits, such as those experienced on a smaller scale by Morrinsville where the Wallace Gallery had proved a boon.
Sir James is the owner of the largest private art collection in New Zealand and head of Waitoa-based Wallace Corporation, which gave $100,000 to the gallery when it was built and provides works for it on a rotational basis.
Sir James echoed Mrs Nathan's sentiments and said he hoped local and central government, the media and business leaders would give their backing to a dedicated art gallery - despite the fact that all those sectors were "filled with Philistines".
"People must give back to their community, one way or another," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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