Southland Art Society regroups following gallery closure

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    Southland Arts Society chairwoman Marion Miller (left) and public programmes manager Georgie Keyse pack up the gallery this week.

    AFTER 16 years’ showcasing Southland artists’ work, Invercargill’s City Gallery has closed.

    “We provided a unique service to show artists’ work so they could measure themselves against other artists, get recognition for their art and sell it, and no one else in Invercargill was doing that on a regular basis,” Southland Art Society chairwoman Marion Miller said.

    “That is our biggest disappointment.”

    The Don St gallery closed to the public last Friday.

    Mrs Miller said the decision was made because the group had struggled to adapt to the changing arts environment, and had insufficient funding and volunteers needed to operate the gallery effectively in the present economic environment.

    “The bank account was going down and we didn’t have any fundraising options in the future to meet our commitments,” she said.

    Society members now intended to restructure the organisation to create a more sustainable model, she said.

    “It will have a new board and a new structure with a business focus – that has to be good for art.

    “Whilst it is not a positive to close the gallery, it is quite exciting to be looking at something that is going to be rejuvenated and regenerated, offering locals an opportunity to show their work.”

    The group will continue to hold its well-established exhibitions, including the ILT Art Awards and the McIntyre Dick Provincial Pride Awards, in empty commercial spaces in the CBD.

    Mrs Miller said prior to the gallery opening in 2001, the society did not have a dedicated building and used to hold pop-up exhibitions, which was what it intended to do again in the interim, utilising empty commercial spaces in the CBD.

    City Gallery public programmes manager Georgie Keyse said without the commitment of running the gallery, the society would now be better able to adapt and focus on its exhibitions.

    The society had not ruled out establishing a dedicated gallery space again in the future once the organisation had been restructured to become more sustainable, she said.

    Miss Keyse moved from Wellington to take up the position at the City Gallery in July. She was the society’s only paid staff member and had been made redundant as a result of the gallery’s closure.

    “I am keeping my options open and looking for opportunities,” she said.

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