Warrnambool Art Galley is bursting at the seams and has unveiled plans to create a bold new vision for the future of the site.
RMIT architecture students, in partnership with the gallery, have come up with some ideas for a redevelopment of the gallery and Civic Green.
Artist impressions, which WAG director Vanessa Gerrans described as “pretty bold”, include turning the area into a Federation Square-style gallery and outdoor space.
The students will now work with professional architects and lecturers to further develop their visions which will then be used to build a campaign for a new gallery.
“I think it’s fair to say we are outgrowing the space, the collection store is full and our attendances are growing exponentially,” Ms Gerrans said.
With 300 public events held at the gallery this year, including sell-out holiday programs, she said visitor numbers were forecast to exceed 50,000.
Many of those through the door are international tourists and children. The opening of some exhibitions, such as the Warrnibald, were so packed that crowds of 400 people spilled outside. By creating a vision for the area, Ms Gerrans said she would then seek funding to develop a masterplan for the site.
“We’re are at the beginning of a long-term strategy for the gallery,” Ms Gerrans said. “We’re looking at what we can do to lay out a plan and long-term strategy for getting financial support to look into the possibility of a new facility.
“We’ve done the Liebig Street redevelopment that’s led to our doorstep, now where are we at?”
The community has been invited to get involved. “I’m hoping to find champions and ambassadors as we campaign for a space that we know that we can service this city better with,” she said.
With more than 2000 items kept in storage and another $200,000 worth of works donated in the past year alone, Ms Gerrans said Warrnambool needed a facility that allowed them to be permanently on display.
A small portion of the collection is about to go on display after a $90,000 grant from the Helen McPherson Smith Foundation to transform part of the gallery into a permanent indigenous space. The gallery’s collection of artefacts were recently catalogued with the help of Aboriginal Heritage Victoria and indigenous elders.
“There’s quite a wide range from all around Australia including some sacred and ceremonial items, so we will consider their appropriate future care,” she said.
With oral histories of four Gunditjmara elders and an eel trap already on display, a steering committee comprising Aboriginal elders and leaders would be established oversee the new indigenous art space.
Ms Gerrans said the gallery was key in creating a vibrant arts community in the city.
“A cultural and arts economy would have all those facets - street art, a passionate arts community which we have, artist-run spaces and the gallery where people can work through their careers,” she said.
“People are starting to realise artists can be leaders and motivators and that’s where we can celebrate success of Jimmi Buscombe, people like Megan Nicolson involved in the environmental issues like the nurdle movement.”
Study puts $700,000 price tag on street artwork
It’s hard to put a price on art, but Warrnambool City Council has tried to do just that.
Figures show that street art projects boosted local spending by at least $700,000 during two separate months.
The council has tracked spending in the city, and correlated the data with pedestrian counts and social media activity, during the months of March and June.
Statistics show that in March, when artist Jimmi Buscombe was painting the black cockatoo on the laneway alongside the post office in Koroit Street, about $300,000 more was spent in the city compared to the same time last year.
Figures for June, when Buscombe was painting the 3D penguin and fox near the rear of Fishtails, also brought with it a $400,000 cash injection to the local economy.
Economic development and business support coordinator Helen Sheedy said the correlation between when artworks go up and an increase in spending the city was obvious.
The council has been tracking the data over the past 12 months as part of a business support plan linked to the multi-million-dollar CBD renewal. It focused on spending on things such as retail, food and beverages.
Figures show that during June this year, spending was up by up to $46,000 on one day alone compared to the same time last year.
Ms Sheedy said there were quite a number of days where the spending was up by $20,000 and $30,000 compared to last year.
She said they were careful to make sure they weren’t comparing weekday data to weekend data. “It was amazing,” she said. “We also tracked social media, likes and shares so we can get a real feel of how the community is feeling about things.”
The spending itself is accessed through Spendmap, which tracks banking traffic.
“We don’t get personal details, but it will tell us how much is spent each day in the city and then it also breaks it down into categories such as how much is spent on food and beverages, on retail,” Ms Sheedy said.
“The spending in the city went up considerably because Jimmi (Buscombe) was physically in the laneway doing the painting, so we tracked that.
“It is hard to put a figure on it. By tracking these things it just gives us some kind of guideline.” Ms Sheedy said the whole concept of street art was not a new thing, but it was now starting to strike a chord with the community.
“Perhaps you wouldn’t think that putting artwork on a wall could have such a positive effect on the community,” she said.
As well as the economic spin-off, the council said the street art had a butterfly effect which brought other benefits that you couldn’t put a price on.
Business reaps the rewards of street art
Warrnambool’s street art had a positive spin-off for nearby businesses, the city council says.
Economic development and business support coordinator Helen Sheedy said one of the greatest things about public art was the effect it had on businesses by naturally drawing people to the area.
Fishtails owner Tamara Mahoney said the penguin and fox artwork, which had been painted near the rear of her business in June, brought a boost to her business at a time when when it was experiencing the most severe downturn in 25 years.
“That was a real bonus,” she said.
“I was really appreciative of the collaboration. It wasn’t manufactured. It brought a lot of interest in a time where it was the quietest it’s been.”
Ms Mahoney said the artwork was beneficial during a time that roadworks were right out the front of her business during the council’s multi-million-dollar redevelopment. “I’ve been here 25 years. To see the use of the laneways with some of this artwork is great,” she said.
“It was wonderful to have some community input, which was Jimmi (Buscombe) basically, to help us through that and in a really organic way.”
Ms Mahoney said her focus was now on building the business back up.
Having artwork in the streets was the first step in a council’s strategy which is based on the new buzzword “placemaking”.
“Part of placemaking is making cities feel vibrant and loved, and places where people want to linger and spend a lot of time,” Ms Sheedy said.
“Statistics show that where there is artwork in the street people feel safer, they feel more connected, they feel prouder of their community.
“It attracts people to come and move to a place that has this cool vibrancy about it and of course it brings tourists to town. There’s so many benefits.”