By Marian Quigley
FOLLOWING the recent closure of Saraghi Gallery, the only small community exhibition space in Cowes, local artists must leave the island to exhibit their works.
Now the Artists’ Society of Phillip Island (ASPI) has joined forces with a new group of Phillip Island artists called the Exhibition Space Committee , to seek a permanent arts hub to accommodate workshops and exhibitions.
ASPI has lacked a permanent home since the late 1990s. It currently hires a room at PICAL for its activities, but it’s not solely ours. The 150 members of the Artists’ Society, including painters, ceramicists, sculptors, photographers, textile artists and writers, hire spaces for their workshops and regular activities as well as their two annual members’ exhibitions. Our exhibitions regularly attract approximately 1000 visitors.
However, individual local artists seeking an affordable, curated exhibition space in which to show their work must travel away from the Island to galleries in Melbourne or other towns such as Meeniyan, Morwell, Sale, Fish Creek or Wonthaggi. This is not feasible for older or disabled Island artists and residents.
Phillip Island is missing out on arts tourism and the income it generates. There are more than 5000 practising artists in Gippsland – a Phillip Island arts hub would likely attract some of them to exhibit here.
The value of arts and culture to the wellbeing and economy of a community is indisputable, as exemplified by MONA in Hobart. Closer to home, art galleries in Meeniyan, Fish Creek and Sale in Gippsland attract many hundreds of visitors. A permanent arts hub would benefit local and other artists, art lovers, the general community, tourists, students and other groups. It would enable the visual arts to link in with annual events by having related art exhibitions and competitions and allow the staging of indoor, off peak events for tourists and the local community.
Local artists need a home and a place to exhibit their work. The Phillip Island community and its visitors are currently missing out on the cultural enrichment offered by a vibrant, accessible, high quality art venue. The local economy is also being short changed.