On the move

It is obvious, the local community is greatly attached to the Gallery at Stewart Street. I have been asked countless times why it needs to move. The saying goes, “if I had a dollar for every time I was asked.” The answer is quite simple. Undeniably, the Stewart Street Gallery is a striking building with outstanding features such as the vaulted ceiling, but it is severely lacking in the most practical aspects for an art gallery.

When receiving one recent exhibition, Play On: The Art of Sport / Ten Years of the Basil Sellars Art Prize, two of the crates did not fit through the door. To make matters worse it was raining. Unpacking crates on the street is not a good look at the best of times and is simply out of the question in the rain.

Stewart Street has no loading bay on the street frontage, let alone attached to the building. Delivery vehicles hope that there is an empty space out the front or risk a fine by parking in the bus zone. There are no amenities in the building and patrons are asked to use the public toilets outside. There is no storage and the entrance would be non-compliant by today’s standards. Unseen by patrons, is the cramped office environment that is either sweltering in summer or freezing in winter.

When I worked at the Gallery in 2009, a feasibility study was being undertaken for an extension. This was not the first study. Vast improvements have been made to the building, but not to the extent to resolve some of the fundamental requirements for a regional gallery.

The move to the paranaple arts centre in Rooke Street is a giant leap forward. Not only does it address the shortcomings of Stewart Street (access, climate control, storage, public amenities, etc.) it also results in significant gains in exhibition space – which is really all the patron should be concerned with. The patron does not want to know about loading bays…

Stewart Street has approximately 140 square metres of floor space and with the built alcoves out of ‘temporary’ walls, has approximately 70 running metres of running wall space. The new Gallery will have just on 300 square metres of floorspace and approximately 116 running metres of wall space.

In addition is a 60 square metre room we are calling the Creative Space. It is a serviceable space to conduct workshops, hold meetings or use an exhibition space if necessary.

I have the pleasure of wearing a hardhat and safety vest to undertake a fortnightly site-visit. It makes an arts and culture guy feel rather manly. Each time I visit the construction site I get a better sense for the space. Last week the walls were lined. Soon it will be painted throughout. Then the carpet, joinery and finishing touches.

We will open on Friday 2 November with the opening of Tidal: City of Devonport Art Award. I cannot think of a more appropriate exhibition. Tidal is a highlight of our calendar that brings some of the most interesting contemporary work from throughout Australia to public view in Devonport.

The exhibition responds to the theme of tidal coastal living, characteristic of our region. We will also be opening with an exhibition from our Robinson Collection. Our Curator Erin Wilson has been working diligently to collate a series of fascinating oral histories in relation to images from the Robinson Collection.

In Your Words: The Robinson Project contains over 100,000 photographic negatives capturing the social and commercial life in the region during the 20th century. It has opened this extensive collection to members of the Devonport community, who have explored the archive, selected negatives that resonate with them, and recorded oral histories elicited by these photographs.

In Your Words exhibition will bring together thirty photographs selected by nine members of the Devonport community, presented alongside oral history excerpts, both text and audio, through which they share their memories and stories of the region, in their own words.

I am looking forward to the move. It will bring together staff from our Gallery, Theatre and Visitor Information Centre into the one building and operation. It will result in a team of people capable of delivering unknown potential. The possibilities for the future look very exciting.

~ Geoffrey Dobson, Convention & Arts Director

Paranaple Arts Centre

Images:
Allan Francis, Baptist Church once; Art Gallery now 1987, from Homes of Devon 6: Open House, b&w photograph, DCC Permanent Collection, acc. 1987.029
Courthouse, Devonport, n.d. The Robinson Collection, R5844, DCC Permanent Collection
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Julie Fragar wins the $15,000 Tidal: City of Devonport National Art Award

Julie Fragar was presented the $15,000 Tidal: City of Devonport National Art Award 2016 by Mayor Steve Martin for her work Antonio Departs Flores on the Whaling Tide at the 2016 Finalists Exhibition on Friday 25 November. This year’s Tidal exhibition was officially opened by the Honourable Jeremy Rockliff MP at the Devonport Regional Gallery.

Antonio Departs Flores on the Whaling Tide is a richly layered painting that contains multiple images and references. The Brisbane-based artist, Julie Fragar, made the work after travelling to the Azores Islands in Portugal. Here, her ancestor Antonio, aged 12, ventured onto a whaling ship in 1850 – arriving in Australia 6 years later.

The 22 finalists and winner were selected by two nationally recognised art experts, Jane Devery Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Victoria, and Jane Stewart, Principal Curator of Art at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

“The judges were very thorough in their selection spending a great deal of time with each work. Narrowing the prize down to one recipient wasn’t an easy task, but the resulting decision will make a great addition to the Tidal Collection which continues to grow in strength and in a range of 2D media,” said Gallery Director Ellie Ray.

“Julie’s painting captures the wild adventure in a way which brings the present and the past together. The historic narrative reminds us of the continuing patterns of migration that reflect Australia today and is a compelling response to the ‘tidal’ theme.” said Tidal 2016 judges Jane Stewart and Jane Devery.

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L-R: Ellie Ray, Jane Stewart and Jane Devery

The Tidal: City of Devonport National Art Award 2016 Finalists Exhibition is on from 26 November to 29 January. Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favourite work in the Peoples’ Choice Award. The winning artist will receive $1,000, courtesy of Collins Real Estate, and will be announced at the close of the exhibition in January.

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Image credit: Julie Fragar, Antonio Departs Flores on the Whaling Tide, 2016, oil on board

2016 Finalists:

Diane Allison, Louisa Bufardeci, Janet Bush, Alex Davern, Julie Fragar, Joey Gracia, Helga Groves, Katherine Hattam, Liam James, Anthony Johnson, Amber Koroluk-Stephenson, Michael Muruste, Penny Mason, Sara Manser, Tess Campbell, Troy Ruffels, David Stephenson & Martin Walch, Evelyn Vyhnal, Megan Walch, Matt Warren, Carole Wilson, Anne Zahalka

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History:

Tidal was first launched in 2004, and since 2010 has been a $15,000 acquisitive award. As a result, three Tidal Award recipients work to date have become a part of the Devonport City Council’s Permanent Collection.

The recipient of the first acquisitive Tidal Award in 2010 was Hobart based photographer and cinematographer Matthew Newton, for his digital print Moonbird boy 3 In 2012, Launceston based artist Paul Snell was the recipient of the second acquisitive Tidal Award for his work Elliptic # 201201. The third and most recent acquisitive Tidal Award in 2014 was presented to yet another Tasmanian artist, Hobart based Joel Crosswell, for his work Galaxias.