Prior to the creation of M&G NSW in the late 90s, the then Regional Galleries Association of NSW (RGA NSW) was funded by the State Government to support and advocate for regional galleries in NSW. In those days, RGA NSW had its office in the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW), before moving to The Gunnery in the early 1990s.
As M&G NSW prepares to move out of The Gunnery, it is perhaps coincidental that the re-named Regional Public Galleries NSW – these days funded entirely through membership fees – is seeking to rekindle that connection, and last week held a one day ‘Future Directions’ workshop at the gallery.
We went along, as did 36 representatives from across NSW, to discuss a broad agenda that included a presentation from senior gallery staff on AGNSW’s services and industry support. There were discussions about alternatives to costly touring exhibitions, and acknowledgement of the role AGNSW plays by focusing on art historical shows. Public programs, artist and curator talks were discussed as exhibition elements that provide flexibility and interest, particularly through digital delivery options such as video conferencing and via live YouTube subscriptions.
General sessions focused on a re-build of the RPGNSW website, our shared needs and the development of collegiate activities. In a brief presentation I spoke about the range of activities undertaken for the gallery sector, and took the opportunity to announce the new Dobell Exhibition Grant, a $40,000 annual gift from the Dobell Foundation in support of regional gallery exhibitions. A great initiative; it’s nice to see something dedicated to the wonderful work coming out of our excellent regional galleries.
Frank Howarth, President of Museums Australia was invited to address the meeting about plans first articulated at the recent National Public Galleries Conference to form a new national peak body for the Public Gallery sector. Howarth explained that The Public Galleries Association of Victoria (PGAV) is organising a national roundtable in May to progress discussions on this issue – so stay tuned for the outcomes of this lively debate.
During the evening, delegates were invited to the opening of The Photograph and Australia. This AGNSW exhibition, curated by Judy Annear, traces the evolution of the medium and its many uses from the 1840s until today. Geoffrey Gurrumal Yunupingu, described by Rolling Stone Magazine as Australia’s most important voice, performed three hauntingly beautiful songs before guests went on to enjoy the exhibition.
Michael Rolfe, CEO M&G NSW