Lismore stuck with crumbling, mouldy gallery

Pictured in the climate controlled storage room at the Lismore Regional Art gallery are John Page from Friends of the Gallery and gallery curator Kezia Geddes. The storage room is only 5 metres x 2.5 metres and too small to houseall the gallery collection.
Pictured in the climate controlled storage room at the Lismore Regional Art gallery are John Page from Friends of the Gallery and gallery curator Kezia Geddes. The storage room is only 5 metres x 2.5 metres and too small to houseall the gallery collection. Jacklyn Wagner

NEVER mind standard mod-cons like climate control and disabled access and lifts - Lismore Regional Art Gallery isn't even up to the standard of your average rental property.

Day in, day out, the gallery's dedicated staff fight mould outbreaks in the gallery's collection storage rooms, crumbling walls, and put up with no hot water.

With Lismore boasting the most number of artists per capita in the nation, it's hard to believe the gallery facilities are so sub-par.

With funding for a new gallery under the Regional Development Australia Fund was knocked-back last week, the gallery faces more challenges ahead.

The rejection marks the second time the gallery has been refused funding in two years, after the failure of the proposed $6 million Margaret Olley Gallery in 2011.

Murwillumbah's Tweed River Art Gallery will now carry the iconic artist's name on its $4.5 million gallery upgrade, due to open later this year.

Lismore gallery director Brett Adlington said after the setbacks of the last three years, it was hard for staff to maintain a positive view of the future.

"We're unpacking trucks and carrying art across the street in the rain, having to unpack crates on the footpath, we don't have hot water, and we routinely have mould outbreaks in our permanent collection store," Mr Adlington said.

Mr Adlington said tourists come to the gallery with the understanding that Lismore is an arts hub, but were often disappointed.

"There is this perception that we're this creative community but there's actually nowhere it's harnessed in a way that matches that perception," he said.

Vice-President of Friends of the Gallery John Page said was glowing in his praise for the gallery's staff - but equally searing in his criticism of the building.

"We are one of the most creative regional communities in the state and yet every other significant regional community has a better gallery than us," Mr Page said.

Yet in spite of the limitations of the building - Mr Adlington and curator Kezia Geddes have created some amazingly innovative exhibitions.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said while she was disappointed with the funding decision, she encouraged people to visit the gallery's current exhibitions, Women Between The Wars and The Red Heart.

"I guarantee anyone who goes along to those will be in for a very rewarding experience," Cr Dowell said.

"It seems like we're in for a long haul with this... our time will come but we will need external funding and enormous community support."

"I urge other people to get involved and we'll get there."

OPINION: It is ludicrous that one of Australia's greatest artistic communities doesn't have a decent gallery



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