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Front L-R: former Gallery Director Jude McBean, current Gallery Director Niomi Sands, Chris Gulaptis, John Barilaro & Chairman of The Gallery Foundation, Rod Watters celebrate the funding announcement with the local community. Image: Contributed

Glory days ahead for regional gallery

Geoff Helisma |

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro and Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis yesterday announced that Clarence Valley Council had won a $7.6 million grant to revitalise the Grafton Regional Gallery.

Mr Barilaro said the expansion will include a national standard main gallery, new workshops and exhibition spaces, a new café and better storage to protect its $3.7million collection from floods.

“This project marks a new phase for arts in the Clarence Valley and will create a vibrant cultural hub both for locals and new visitors to enjoy,” Mr Barilaro said.

Mr Gulaptis said the gallery refurbishment will “showcase the area as an attractive regional destination”.
“The NSW Government recognises the importance of investing in arts and culture in the Clarence Valley,” he said.
“Supporting the arts in regional NSW is fundamental to our spiritual wellbeing and boosts our local economy.”
He had high praise for The Gallery Foundation, chaired by Rod Watters, which “contributed over $30,000 in sponsorship to support the development of a very impressive funding application”.
“This is a terrific outcome that would not have been realised if not for the dedication and long-standing efforts of a team of community-minded people with a vision to establish a strong cultural identity,” he said.
Mr Gulaptis acknowledged the efforts of former gallery director Jude McBean, “whose drive and leadership over 15 years was unwavering, [and] “the Friends of the Gallery, Clarence Valley Council, who steered the vigorous application process, and the Yulgilbar Foundation, who for many years have supported a number of worthwhile causes in the region including the gallery”.

Mr Watters said that the gallery’s expansion will ultimately benefit the valley’s economy.
He cited the increasing visitor trends at other galleries that have undegone major improvements.
“The foundation engaged a destination researcher, Jo MacKellar, to provide supporting data for the grant application,” he said.
“She found that the last six or seven galleries that have been expanded, their visitor rate expanded by 144 per cent over a five-year period.”
Mr Watters said the expanded gallery would ultimately become part of a “cultural trail with some fantastic facilities”.
“The gallery will be an economic driver to attract people from outside the area to come and stay and enjoy,” he said.
“We will be able to stage world class exhibitions.
“Jo researched visitor numbers from government-related sources and says 87,000 visitors, who claimed they had a real cultural interest, came to the valley [last year].
“There’s great potential to become a tourist magnet, comparable to galleries to the south and north – you could come to the Northern Rivers and experience five outstanding world class facilities.”

Mayor Jim Simmons welcomed the announcement.
“We have a dynamic, vibrant, enthusiastic and growing arts community in the Clarence,” he said.
“This funding will help us … focus on making [the gallery] more accessible to residents and visitors.
“It is great result for the Clarence and will be a tremendous attraction.”
The $100million Regional Cultural Fund, developed “to ensure regional NSW receives its fair share of arts and cultural infrastructure and the associated recreational and educational benefits”, is part of the NSW Government’s $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund.

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