The Cessnock Advertiser Letters to the Editor: September 11, 2019

WILL BE MISSED: Cessnock Regional Art Gallery is set to close by the end of 2019 after a recent funding request was knocked back by Cessnock City Council.
WILL BE MISSED: Cessnock Regional Art Gallery is set to close by the end of 2019 after a recent funding request was knocked back by Cessnock City Council.

A cultural and emotional resource for many

I moved up to Pokolbin almost two years ago. Cessnock is my local town. A significant place that helped me ease into the transition from big city to country regional lifestyle was the Cessnock Regional Art Gallery. It was not only the exhibitions but the other activities that the gallery either hosts or provides the space for; the theatre nights, opening nights, charity nights, the art fairs and the workshops, that introduced me to the life and people of the vicinity.

It is difficult to quantify all that the gallery provides; because as a space for the arts and learning, it is a cultural and emotional resource for many different sectors of the growing Cessnock community; from children, adolescents, adults, local artists, retirees and tourists.

And now I hear it is mostly likely to close its doors at the end of 2019 because the Cessnock City Council has refused to support the recent proposal from the gallery. I am constantly amazed that this gallery is run totally by volunteers and a handful of local sponsors. But volunteers can burn out and be limited in their endeavours without help from a larger stronger authority. The Cessnock Council doesn't appear to realise the gallery's contribution to its community. Imagine, what potential the Cessnock City Council could unlock, by financially supporting the arts and gallery in Cessnock.

Yes, it's tough times all over. But to ignore the human need for the arts in bad times and in good times, is just ignorant. Over the years, many regional towns have been revived by investment into the arts; Kurri Kurri and Walcha are two that come immediately to mind. Surely, the Cessnock City Council could cover the rates of the gallery and the insurance costs. And invest financially into a paid chairman position.

Yes, roads need repair in our area and no doubt other utilities need attention but the mind and spirit of a growing community need support and encouragement and at times, repair. Beyond its own community, the the Cessnock Regional Art Gallery, with substantive financial support from the Cessnock City Council, could be more pivotal in enhancing the tourism in the Hunter Valley.

The level of support of the arts and the current gallery by Cessnock City Council pales in comparison to Maitland City Council who funds and supports the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. Yes, in Maitland the gallery is larger. So even more reason to be able to financially support the Cessnock Regional Art Gallery.

Cessnock City Council has been offered 'a gem to be polished and set', for the future. And once again, it has rejected the opportunity..

So once upon a time in Cessnock there was a shoe store, a cinema, a small department store... and an art gallery. So sad.

Christine Munce, Pokolbin

Art gallery deserves support from council

I was sorry to hear that Cessnock Council once more has refused to support the struggling art gallery and the present funding (privately donated) will run out by the end of the year, meaning the closure of the gallery due to lack of support.

This is a sad reflection that a council the size of Cessnock area including Kurri Kurri, Wollombi and Pokolbin will lose a place to display local and imported exhibitions, art classes, school excursion and support for the local Indigenous culture.

The gallery is well supported with attendance, but relies on private donations and the hard-working volunteer staff have worked tirelessly on the smell of an oily rag to have worthwhile exhibitions.

The minimum funding required would be a modest sum of $50,000 to keep the gallery afloat, which pales into insignificance when compared to the planned spending on infrastructure in Cessnock.

Comparable size councils have marvellous regional galleries - Orange,Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Bathurst and Muswellbrook, to mention a few.

A healthy community needs to nurture its local culture and they need a space to do this as much as sports need the space to indulge their activities. It has been documented that more people view the Archibald Portrait Prize than watch the rugby league grand final, and likewise if anyone has been to an opening at the Cessnock Art Gallery they would witness just how many people attend the exhibitions.

Art galleries are not there to make money any more than a sports carnival and equally need the support of the local community.

Chris Fussell, Pokolbin

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