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Byron Shire
October 19, 2021

Funding boost for Ballina’s community gallery – but has it lost its way?

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Ballina Shire Mayor Cr David Wright with Ben Franklin MLC announced nearly $85,000 in funding for the Northern Rivers Community Gallery. Photo supplied.Ballin

The Northern Rivers Community Gallery (NRCG) was set up as a ‘community gallery’ in Ballina in 2007 and it has just received $84,971 in government funding to support the creative futures of young people. Yet there are concerns that the gallery has moved away from its roots of supporting the local artistic community.

In 2019 the NRCG moved from monthly to bi-monthly exhibitions and local artists Esther and Paul Button have started a petition to seek community support for bringing back the monthly exhibitions.

‘This is a beautiful space for the gallery and artists but I think the community gallery has lost its way,’ said Mr Button.

‘This should be a community based facility with community based activities. The change from monthly to bi-monthly exhibitions has reduced the opportunities for local artists to exhibit. The current management team seem more focussed on being like a Sydney gallery than on supporting local artists.’

Ballina Shire Council has responded to the Buttons concerns stating that the reason for the change to bi-monthly exhibitions is ‘based on professional industry standards across similar public regional and community gallery spaces… Our exhibitions are programmed by a curatorial committee under a competitive process that aims to ensure high quality exhibitions with broad community appeal. The diversity and nature of the exhibitions are key to attracting large state and federal funding grants for infrastructure, programs, projects, residencies, and to run creative programs for the while community’.

Creative programs

The aim to receive grants has payed off with the announcement of the grant for the gallery ‘to update its facilities and that of Ignite Studios and support its Creative Lifelong Learning programs’ that was announced by Nationals Member of the Legislative Council Ben Franklin today.

‘Art is so important for expression and is such a wonderful tool for young people to explore ideas, concepts and improve their creative skills,’ Mr Franklin said.

Ballina Shire Mayor David Wright said the funding would be a welcome boost to local arts. 

‘This funding will allow Council to make important upgrades to the Northern Rivers Community Gallery and the adjacent multi-purpose creative industries space – Ignite Studios,’ Cr Wright said.

‘This exciting upgrade to Ignite Studios will include the installation of a wheelchair lift and a kiln. The addition of a kiln will mean that NRCG can expand its offering to the community to include ceramic programs and workshops.’

Community roots

The Council has stated that they received support for the longer exhibition periods from artists yet the Buttons say there is strong support for the monthly exhibitions.

‘With bi-monthly exhibitions there are less opportunities for local artists,’ said Mr Button.

‘We believe there is significant support for more regular monthly exhibitions and that the gallery should be focussed on supporting local artists.’

In their support for moving back to monthly exhibitions they believe there will be greater opportunities for income for the gallery through both exhibition fees, commission from sales as well as greater sales fro the associated gift shop and cafe when it re-opens after the COVID-19 crisis.

They have started an online petition in support fo going back to monthly exhibitions on change.org.

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  1. And the Ballina gallery is ridiculously small – I was shocked when i visited. But then I am lucky to be living in Murwillumbah.

  2. i agree entirely with this petition !and this statement ….”‘This should be a community based facility with community based activities. The change from monthly to bi-monthly exhibitions has reduced the opportunities for local artists to exhibit. The current management team seem more focussed on being like a Sydney gallery than on supporting local artists.’””
    Lets get back to supporting more local artists !


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