9 May 2023

Plans for Bega's upgraded art gallery back on track after builder's collapse

| Albert McKnight
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artist impression of art gallery

Bega Valley’s council says SECCA will be a key asset for a region known for its diverse visual culture. Photo: BVSC.

Bega’s Mayor says local contractors were left high and dry by the collapse of Lloyd Group, which saw a delay in the opening of the town’s new, multi-million-dollar art gallery.

But a plan has now been put in motion to get the works required to open the gallery back on track.

The $3.5 million South East Centre for Contemporary Art (SECCA) was originally scheduled to open in the centre of Bega in April.

However, at the end of March, Bega Valley Shire Council learned that the construction company in charge of the build, Lloyd Group, had entered voluntary administration.

At the time, the council said while SECCA was nearing completion, the work on the centre was paused for the administrator to review the project and determine the next steps.

At a meeting on Monday (8 May), Bega Valley’s councillors decided to work with a range of specialist contractors to finish the project, with strong support being shown for the use of local contractors.

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Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said many local contractors had been left high and dry following the collapse of Lloyd Group.

“Our focus today was twofold: one to finalise works on a landmark regional centre for contemporary arts, and two to use as many local contractors as possible in completing this key development,” he said on Monday.

“By taking over the role of principal contractor, we will be able to source the right people for the job at an acceptable cost.”

Mayor Fitzpatrick said the council’s first step was to engage the existing local site manager, who was well placed to coordinate the project’s completion, and to work with existing local sub-contractors where possible.

“The alternative was to engage an independent principal contractor, however, this would likely have come at a much higher cost and would take longer to deliver,” he said.

“We will waste no time in moving forward as the new principal contractor and we will keep the community informed as the project moves closer to completion.”

The process of creating SECCA has been about five years in the making.

It involves the redevelopment and expansion of what has been the Bega Valley Regional Gallery, which has been in the centre of Bega for 30 years. It is the only publicly funded art gallery in the South East.

Designed by award-winning Melbourne-based architecture practice Sibling, SECCA will include 500 square metres of exhibition, archive, storage and workshop space alongside a new facade.

It will feature a significantly larger exhibition space and include a state-of-the-art main gallery space for touring exhibitions, featuring vast windows so the art can be seen 24/7.

The Zingel Place forecourt area will also include a new shade structure to provide a more usable community space.

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The council said the redevelopment would allow access to a wider selection of borrowing institutions, particularly the Art Gallery of NSW, as well as showcase local exhibition artists and provide capacity to host destination exhibitions and unique artistic programming.

Mayor Fitzpatrick said that once the gallery was completed, it would be a key asset for a region known for its diverse visual culture.

“It will work alongside national and international arts organisations to deliver a spectacular arts and educational facility at the heart of the Bega Valley Shire,” he said.

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