National treasure may help get arts money
By WILL JACKSON
HAVING national art treasure Margaret Olley onside is helping Lismore get its multi-million-dollar arts precinct.
Lismore City Council has committed $6 million towards the new Lismore Regional Gallery and Exhibition Centre, but it's expected to cost $12 million.
The council wants the Federal and NSW Governments to chip in the difference.
A delegation from Lismore City Council went bowl in hand to Canberra last week to meet new Federal Minister for Arts Senator George Brandis and Prime Minister John Howard's chief of staff.
Deputy mayor John Chant, general manager Paul O'Sullivan, Arts and Cultural Policy Advisory Group chair Cr Ros Irwin and gallery director Steven Alderton attended the meeting which was arranged by Federal Member for Page Ian Causley.
By all accounts Mr Brandis was receptive to the council's proposal, but he made no commitments.
Lismore Regional Gallery director Steven Alderton said Ms Olley's endorsement of the project carried a lot of weight.
"The Federal Government is interested in supporting national ideas and projects and Margaret is a national treasure," he said.
Ms Olley, one of Aust- ralia's most celebrated artists and a recipient of Companion of the Order of Australia, was born in Lismore. Her paintings will feature prominently in the gallery's permanent collection.
The council's executive director of development and governance, Lindsay Walker, said the arts precinct project, formerly known as 'Art in the Heart', would revitalise and transform the CBD.
"We got a very sympathetic hearing (in Canberra)," he said.
"They were impressed by the amount of work the council had already done. But there was a concern that the State Government had not put any money in yet."
He said the next step would be to make approaches to the State Government but not much was likely to happen until after the election.
If the council managed to obtain funding for the project through the Federal Government's Regional Partnerships program, it would be its largest grant ever, Mr Causley said.