Big things for Albury in 2015

  • QEII Square, Albury Art Gallery and Cafo

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    Big things for Albury in 2015

    Albury’s new art museum to be unveiled in mid-2015.

  • Bronek Kozka, Pre-dinner drinks, 2008, Archival, pigment based digital print on paper 70 x 142 cm, Edition of 10, from The Best Years Of Our Lives series.

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    Big things for Albury in 2015

    Bronek Kozka, Pre-dinner drinks (detail), 2008, Archival, pigment based digital print on paper, 70 × 142 cm, Edition of 10, from The Best Years Of Our Lives series.

  • Max Dupain, Sunbaker, 1937, gelatin silver photograph, 37.9 x 42.8 cm image.

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    Big things for Albury in 2015

    Max Dupain, Sunbaker (detail), 1937, gelatin silver photograph, 37.9 × 42.8 cm image.

  • Tracey Moffatt, Something More #1, 1989, type C photograph, 100 x 129.8cm.

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    Big things for Albury in 2015

    Tracey Moffatt, Something More #1 (detail), 1989, type C photograph, 100 × 129.8cm.

The 'Albury Effect': Can Bilbao be replicated in regional NSW?

Walking down Dean Street in the heart of Albury’s CBD, it’s easy to see why there is a genuine buzz around town.

The streets are alive with shoppers and the cafes are bountiful. People enjoy the sunshine in al-fresco restaurants while others make their way to work. It’s as cosmopolitan as Melbourne or Sydney, without the crazy queues for coffee.

In the city’s heart lies QEII Square, a lush green community space ideal for evening markets, pop-up concerts or a lazy day in the sun. Immediately adjacent sits the home of Australia’s newest contemporary art museum.

Right now it’s little more than a sprawling construction site. By mid-2015 it will be the jewel in Albury’s cultural crown, a lavish $10.5M art museum offering the largest public exhibition space outside Sydney.

To some it may seem strange that a regional city in southern NSW is attempting to position itself at the forefront of contemporary art. But Albury is the latest city to join a regional renaissance led by towns such as Bendigo, Ballarat and Tweed River that have recognised culture as a key factor in economic growth.

By mid-2015 it will be the jewel in Albury’s cultural crown, a lavish $10.5M art museum offering the largest public exhibition space outside Sydney.

When plans for Albury’s new art museum were first unveiled, the Federal Government swiftly injected $3.5M into its development. Corporate and philanthropic supporters have already backed the project, and are expected to contribute more than $1M in donations.

Those close to the project quietly mention ‘Bilbao’ when talking about Albury’s new art museum, a reference to the unprecedented impact the Guggenheim had on the struggling Spanish city.

The ‘Bilbao Effect’ is now legendary. Within three years of opening, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao had generated €500M and welcomed four million tourists, transforming the city into a cultural icon. It has been credited with revitalising the city and lauded as the catalyst for new hotels, a convention centre, transport system, river esplanade and a thriving artistic scene.

It’s little wonder that other cities look to Bilbao as an example when creating cultural hubs of their own. While perhaps not to the same scale as Bilbao, Albury is looking for a similar transformative effect with its new art museum.

Conservative estimates already suggest that the museum will inject $27.6M into Albury’s economy annually, attract 80,000 visitors per year and create an additional $1.01M in ongoing employment in the arts.

The flow on affect to hoteliers, retailers, restaurants and service providers will reach the millions. Comparisons are already being made to Bendigo Art Gallery’s Grace Kelly: Style Icon exhibition. That show alone boosted the local economy to the tune of $17M.

The city council is unashamed in promoting the museum’s potential to become an economic and tourist epicenter. Recruitment is underway for the inaugural art museum Director and they will be specifically tasked with luring national and international exhibitions to Dean Street.

Conservative estimates already suggest that the museum will inject $27.6M into Albury’s economy annually, attract 80,000 visitors per year and create an additional $1.01M in ongoing employment in the arts.

Project Manager Jacqui Hemsley says that the new art museum is more than a cultural facility, but a long-term tourism and economic strategy.

“Places like Bilbao, Birmingham and Glasgow all had the courage to invest in these huge cultural projects at times when common sense would have said to focus on bricks and mortar.”

“But these investments pay off. With our new art museum Albury is making a statement that we belong on the global stage. We have the passion, the support and the freedom to make this facility renowned nationally and internationally. And when we achieve it, the whole city will capitalise.”

The confidence that comes with this project is warranted. While other cities may have attempted something similar with varying degrees of success, Albury’s distinct advantage is the way the site integrates with a larger cultural precinct.

On the same city block sits the acclaimed Albury LibraryMuseum, Entertainment Centre, Murray Conservatorium of Music and idyllic QEII Square. The new Albury art museum is the final piece in a cultural puzzle that cities worldwide would clamber to replicate. Perhaps Albury is on the cusp of creating a ‘Bilbao Effect’ of its own.

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Museums & Galleries of NSW helps museums, galleries and Aboriginal cultural centres of NSW create exciting and inspiring experiences for visitors and strong, thriving local communities. We develop their skills, connect them with others in the industry, provide funding, point visitors their way, and give them access to ground-breaking exhibitions.

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