Warrnambool program for artists with disabilities to be moved, gallery closed

A WARRNAMBOOL art gallery featuring work by artists with disabilities will be closed, but the agency behind it has vowed to continue to provide an arts program to its clients.

The Artlink Gallery has been run by Western District Employment Access (WDEA) in Koroit Street in the former Toc-H Scout Hall for several years and was the site of the popular Warrnibald Prize.

But WDEA chief executive Mick White said financial pressures meant the studio’s lease would not be continued and the program would have to be relocated to WDEA’s building in Albert Street in the industrial estate.

“No doubt people will be disappointed we’ve moved. There will be quite a bit of angst,” Mr White said.

“It does come down to a business decision (but) the gallery was bloody lovely so it’s regrettable. But there’s nothing we can do about it.

“The program is still continuing. The only thing we won’t have is the gallery space.”

The gallery was partially funded by WDEA and the Victorian government, but changes in the government funding to align with the upcoming Disability Care program (formerly known as the National Disability Insurance Scheme) mean WDEA would have had to bear the brunt of the gallery costs on their own.

“We’ve tried to absorb the costs and tried to keep it going with our own funds,” Mr White said.

“It’s no one’s fault, it’s just changing times (in the disability sector).”

He said Artlink would be operating again by mid-February. “When we get up and running (at Albert Street) and get enough works, we’ll look at where it can be exhibited,” he said.

Mr White conceded the move from a central location to the industrial estate may affect the ability for some of the more-than-20 clients to take part, but said that was something they would explore.

“There’s every chance we can assist with some form of transport,” he said.

WDEA will also explore how and where it will keep the Warrnibald Prize going after a successful first two years.

“That’s been a terrific program,” Mr White said.

“It’s had tremendous support and is really something for us to hang our hat on.

“It’s cost us money but you can’t put a price on goodwill and there has been an enormous amount of that (generated by the Warrnibald Prize).”

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