1 March 2024

Gallery putting Bega 'on the map' shortlisted in statewide architecture awards

| Claire Sams
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The inside of the gallery

The Bega art gallery opened in late 2023, but now it is the building drawing the eye. Photo: David Rogers Photography.

A South Coast gallery has been shortlisted for annual statewide awards, proving more than art can be pleasing to the eye at a gallery.

South East Centre for Contemporary Art (SECCA) was shortlisted in the 2024 NSW Architecture Awards – organised by the Australian Institute of Artists – in the Public Architecture category and the EmAGN Project Award category.

Gallery director Iain Dawson said he was thrilled by the news.

“It’s fantastic for the architects that we worked very closely with to bring the project to fruition,” he said.

“It’s also really wonderful for the community to know that they’re getting a really important building as their local art gallery.”

The building’s design is the work of Sibling Architecture, a Sydney- and Melbourne-based architecture firm.

“We were very involved in planning and were very clear on what we needed from the gallery,” Mr Dawson said.

“It was great to have that creative collaboration with the architects.

“We had some ideas in mind – we wanted the gallery to be accessible to the general public, which is why there are those big windows.”

Architect and project leader Eleanor Peres said they designed the gallery to retain elements of the old space, while adding and expanding facilities.

“The goal was to make a few changes to affect the way they could show the artworks, and especially the kinds of works they could loan,” she said.

“From a technical perspective, it was an existing building that needed to be carefully maintained but also pulled apart and reworked in other ways.

“We kept all the original floors and expanded the existing galleries, and demolished the roof and put a new one in with new skylights.

“That was because we wanted to have a lot more controlled light into the space, and have the space be a lot more open.”

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Ms Peres said it was “so special” to see Bega residents visiting the gallery on opening night.

“The community waited a really long time for the design and construction process to finish, so it’s really special to see then using and enjoying it,” she said.

The refurbished gallery opened in November 2023, and was one of six galleries across NSW and Victoria to host the Archibald Prize 2023 touring exhibition across 2023 and 2024.

“Since opening, we’ve had a really fantastic response from visitors,” Mr Dawson said.

“It’s wonderful to have the gallery doors open and to be presenting exhibitions once again.”

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Mr Dawson said the bigger gallery space and higher ceilings increased the kinds of exhibitions the gallery could host.

“We now have an appropriate loading dock and appropriate storage,” he said.

“We have ceilings as high as we could possibly have, so that gives us the space to have a broader variety of artworks.

“That opens us up to the world.”

Mr Dawson said the expanded facilities at the gallery meant Bega could compete with other galleries for larger exhibitions.

“We want to be involved in local stories and national conversations about contemporary visual arts,” he said.

“We want to firmly place Bega on the map, and maintain that link to metro and regional areas.”

2024 NSW Architecture Awards winners will be announced on 28 June.

SECCA is located at Zingel Place in Bega, and is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily.

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