Despite the road to redevelopment of the Bega Valley Regional Gallery (BVRG) having been plagued by various difficulties, the project will soon to move forward as Bega Valley Shire Council puts it out to tender this month.
Gallery director Iain Dawson said the redevelopment and expansion will elevate the 30-year-old facility to contemporary exhibition standards, and significantly expand its exhibition space from 180 square metres to 290 square metres.
“This project represents an all-round positive return on investment for the Bega Valley community,” he said.
“Besides the obvious social and cultural benefits, the larger gallery will generate significant economic benefits through increased tourist visitation and the additional expenditure that flows from that – accommodation, cafes and restaurants, and other tourist attractions.”
It is estimated the economic benefits of the BVRG redevelopment will see an extra $3.4 million injected into the local economy each year.
In a statement, Mr Dawson also made reference to the various other benefits for the local community which included increased participation in cultural activities, improved educational outcomes, benefits for mental health and wellbeing, and more community cohesion.
Once redeveloped, BVRG will comprise two exhibition spaces and one workshop or project space that will be available for hire. It will also house a small gallery shop.
Mr Dawson said he hopes the redevelopment will allow BVRG wider access to borrowing institutions such as the Art Gallery of NSW, and also allow it to better showcase local artists.
Improved storage for BVRG’s growing collection was also noted.
“With the capacity to host destination exhibitions and unique artistic programming, the gallery will grow the cultural and tourism offerings for the region and link to opportunities at the Port of Eden and Merimbula Airport,” said Mr Dawson.
Works on the BVRG expansion are expected to begin in late 2021, with a targeted opening date of December 2022.
Council has worked with Sibling Architecture to complete the design.
Although currently closed, the gallery team will continue to deliver artistic programs at the two pop-up galleries, BVRG:TARMAC at Merimbula Airport, and BVRG:PORT at the Eden Welcome Centre at Snug Cove.
Bega Valley Shire’s winter arts festival, ART MONTH Sapphire Coast, is also held throughout all of August.
Funding for half of the $3.6 million redevelopment project has been secured from the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund, with council committed to fund the rest.
However, council is still engaged in discussions with the NSW Government to secure additional funding.
Going out to tender marks another milestone in the project’s three-year period of planning and consultation with the community and arts sector.
Initially, the development application was approved and submitted to the NSW Government’s Regional Cultural Fund for assessment in 2019.
The funding round offered successful applicants a share in $47 million aimed to strengthen regional arts, screen, culture and heritage, and revitalise local communities through strategic investment across NSW.
However, despite the BVRG project having been top-rated in the round, it missed out on receiving a grant. This was the second time the project had missed out – in 2018, it made it to the second round before being knocked back.
The gallery is the only publicly funded art gallery in southeast NSW.
Read more about the Bega Valley Regional Gallery redevelopment project at Bega Valley Shire Council.