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The $7.6m refurbishment of the Grafton Regional Gallery is on track to be completed by the end of the year, however, the usual NSW Government funding to administer arts programs has been withdrawn. In summary, the project delivers refurbishment to the existing studio, gallery and function space (282 sqm); the addition of the new gallery space (548 sqm); the addition of a new collection and conservation space (146 sqm); and associated works. Image: CVC Image: CVC

Gulaptis lobbies to restore ‘baffling’ arts funding rejection

Geoff Helisma

At the September Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting it was revealed that the Grafton Regional Gallery had been denied its expected $70,000 NSW Government funding for the “first time ever”.

At that meeting, councillors unanimously resolved to “write to the Premier of NSW, the local Member for Clarence and the NSW Minister for the Arts, detailing the impact the change in funding support will have on regional NSW and for residents of the Clarence Valley.

“And, in particular, the struggling local art movement due to the impacts of the drought, the 2019 bushfires which affected 50% of our local government area, a flood in February 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis responded and the letter was received and noted, but not discussed, at the October 27 CVC meeting.

He wrote, in part: “I, too, was disappointed to learn the gallery was not successful in its application, when in previous years it has been awarded recurrent annual funding to the tune of around $70,000.

“I acknowledge the gallery is a major tourism drawcard in the midst of an economic crisis and a solace to locals in these difficult times.

“I have raised my concerns with the Minister for the Arts Don Harwin, as it seems baffling, given that, as a government, we provided $7.6million for a massive upgrade of the popular facility under the Regional Cultural Fund.

“I have asked the Minister to reconsider the decision … and/or advise of other avenues the gallery might be able to pursue to continue delivering world class art and exhibition in the Clarence Valley.

“I will provide you [CVC] with a copy of the Minister’s response when I receive one.”

Mr Gulaptis told the Independent that when he was next in Sydney for parliament (November 10 is the next sitting) he will “chase up with minister’s office”.