Sites investigated for inner-city art gallery

The Invercargill City Council has agreed to fund $50,000 towards a feasibility study on establishing an inner-city art gallery.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said the Council approved the special funding at its final meeting of the 2013-2016 Council term on Tuesday night.

Construction of a modern art gallery in the city centre is part of a Southland Regional Development Strategy and Invercargill City Council plan to breathe life into Invercargill’s central business district.

A decision has yet to be made on where the new art gallery would be sited. One suggestion being investigated is that the inner-city art gallery could be developed on Council-owned land in Esk St West.

SoRDS governance group chairman Tom Campbell said that in consultation with urban designer Kobus Mentz, Esk St West had been identified as a key strategic location for an inner-city anchor project as part of a golden square between Tay, Esk, Dee and Don Streets.

An art gallery near Wachner Place would be a great step towards encouraging people back to and helping add vibrancy to the inner-city, he said.

Any decision around locating a new art gallery in the inner-city would need to go through rigorous public consultation, he said. “It will be a community asset so the community needs to have its say on what and where the art gallery should be.”

SoRDS Urban Rejuvenation Team member John Prendergast said the feasibility study would look at the possibility of a shared art gallery facility – with all three art collections, The Southland Museum and Art Gallery, the Southland Art Foundation Trust collection and the Invercargill Public Art collection, formerly of Anderson House, interested in exploring possibilities.

The study would explore the practicality and possibilities of the proposed site, as well as what would happen within a combined gallery, he said.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt said: “Council is providing the money to get this process rolling and to show our commitment to working with SoRDS and the wider community for the benefit of our inner city, businesses and retailers.”

Mr Campbell said SoRDS and the City Council have been talking to community funders in Southland and they were generally supportive of the direction being taken.

Invercargill Licensing Trust General Manager Greg Mulvey said the Trust was very supportive of a new art gallery. “We believe it will be one of the pillars of the rejuvenation of the inner city.”

There still needed to be discussion around how an art gallery could best work in concert with a new hotel, and the optimal positioning for a hotel and art gallery in the inner city, Mr Mulvey said.

The long-term goal of the strategy is to increase Southland’s population by 10,000 people by 2025.

Nine action teams, made up of Southland leaders, are at the hub of the work with a vision of the region as a vibrant, welcoming and prosperous place to live, work, study and play.