Part of my trip north was to go back to Whanganui where I grew up and visit family there. On my second day I went with my Grandma to visit the Sarjeant Gallery which is currently housed in a temporary exhibition and storage space on Taupo Quay while the Gallery itself is upgraded and expanded to be more fit for purpose.
Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it? Except the Invercargill story takes a different journey, one where the building is closed to the public and no temporary facility set up so the Gallery can still operate.
Of course in Whanganui opinion is divided. Some of my family thought it was a great thing to spend money on setting up a temporary premises and redeveloping the architecturally valuable Gallery, while others thought it was just a waste of money on all fronts. You can never please everyone.
One of the cool things about the move was the discovery of artwork that had not been properly catalogued and had been forgotten about. On our visit to the Gallery we saw an exhibition of some of these interesting works. My Grandma also gave me this wee article from the local paper talking about another piece of work.
Violet Emily Whiteman was my Grandma’s grandmother. We knew that the Sarjeant collection included a number of her works and have visited them in the past but it is very exciting to learn about this new piece.
Of course big money is involved in such an exercise, by the looks about $33 million for the redevelopment and another few million for the temporary premises for the next 5 years. It’s risky. But it’s a project that is attracting national funding support as well as donations so the cost is not being shouldered solely by the ratepayer. And Whanganui is seeking to make a name for itself as a place where art is valued and probably potentially profitable. So they are taking the risk.
Good on them I say.
I will admit that I was disappointed that our council couldn’t bring itself to support a temporary premises for the Invercargill Public Art Gallery (formerly Andersons Park Art Gallery). To my mind there would have been a number of benefits to doing something like this. The main one being that our collection would be being shared with the community. This would help grow appreciation for the arts. But also providing a temporary space in the inner city would have shown us the impact an inner city gallery could have and that information would be invaluable as we plan for the future.