27 October 2023

Multi-million dollar expansion to 30-year-old gallery to bring 'incredible benefit' to Far South Coast

| Claire Sams
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Man in front of painting

Director of Bega’s ECCA Gallery, Iain Dawson, says the South East Centre for Contemporary Art will open with a “blockbuster-like” exhibition in November. Photo: Supplied.

The team behind a multi-million dollar gallery development is busy adding the final touches before its long-awaited opening.

South East Centre for Contemporary Art (SECCA) Director Iain Dawson said excitement was building ahead of the opening in mid-November.

“We’re really excited to show the community what we’ve been working on for so long,” he said.

“We were delayed earlier in the year, when the circumstances of the construction company threw a big spanner in the works, but we’re rip roaring ready to go now.”

While an opening was originally planned for April, it was delayed when the construction company in charge of the build, Lloyd Group, went into voluntary administration at the end of March.

In May, Bega Valley Shire Council turned to specialist contractors to finish the project.

“I work with incredible colleagues who are much better at these kinds of big projects than I am,” Mr Dawson said.

“It’s been five or six years that this project has been in development, and several councils have all agreed on the incredible benefit that this facility can deliver not only to the Bega Valley Shire, but the greater southeast region.”

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SECCA will open on the evening of 17 November with the Archibald Prize 2023 exhibition.

“It’s very exciting to be presenting such a prestigious exhibition as our first show, something that is a blockbuster-like show,” Mr Dawson said.

Mr Dawson said he was “really thrilled” Bega Valley Shire residents could see all 57 artworks from a national prize at a local gallery.

“This is an incredible show to open with,” Mr Dawson said.

“The Archibald courts controversy every year, but it’s also an exhibition that the general public and the art-loving public come and visit.”

SECCA is one of six galleries across NSW and Victoria to host the Archibald tour.

Mr Dawson said the major redevelopment raised the profile of Bega on the artistic map.

“It acknowledges that we are an important outpost on the cultural trade route between metro centres and other regional centres,” he said.

“Having SECCA completed lays our claim to be able to show any exhibition – be it from any national collecting institution, international collections or institutions that want to tour.”

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Bega Valley Regional Art Gallery was in operation for 30 years, until it underwent a redevelopment and became SECCA.

Mr Dawson said the result was a new facility with two galleries, both with large windows.

“That was an integral part of the design – a lot of galleries are built like fortresses,” he said.

“We wanted to have artwork that was on display 24/7, and a real connection to people outside.”

The project also brings some new facilities to Bega.

“We have a workshop space – which we haven’t had previously – that artists can hire,” he said.

“They can hold classes in or meet and create together, and we’ll also be presenting a program of workshops and classes into 2024.”

A community event will also be held on 9 to 10 December, with free entry.

“There’ll be a lot of live music, food trucks, performances and other things like that,” he said.

“We want to give a real ‘thank you’ to the community for their patience as we got this gallery up off the ground.”

SECCA is located at Zingel Place in Bega and once opened, the public can visit from 10 am to 5 pm daily.

The Archibald Prize Regional Tour will be open to the public from 18 November to 7 January 2024, with tickets available for purchase through SECCA’s website.

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