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Wangaratta Art Gallery: 'connecting, inspiring and community wellbeing is our priority'

Andrea Simpson

A place of empathy and inspiration, Wangaratta Art Gallery brings more than just contemporary art to its local residents: it’s an important educational space within the regional community.
Wangaratta Art Gallery: 'connecting, inspiring and community wellbeing is our priority'

Education program with children visiting for Wominjeka: 30 years of the Koori Heritage Trust, a touring exhibition from NETS VIC 2017. Supplied.

Located in Kelly Country in north-east Victoria, the city of Wangaratta was recently voted the number one option in Victoria for tree-changers wishing to escape from the rat-race. One factor that makes this region so enticing for locals and visitors alike is its strong sense of community. A focal point for the local community is Wangaratta Art Gallery, in the city’s arts precinct.

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‘One of our big priorities is community wellbeing. It’s about bringing people into the gallery so they are experiencing wellbeing through art,’ Simone Nolan, Gallery Director, told ArtsHub.

Home to the internationally lauded Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award, held biennially and attracting textile enthusiasts from across the globe, Wangaratta Art Gallery also has a strong focus on art education and community inclusiveness.

‘We aim to be inclusive and educational,’ explained Nolan. ‘We have really strong connections with our local arts groups. We try to nurture and feature our regional artists. It’s about exposing regional artists to what’s possible. Then at the same time we are also programming significant national artists and projects.’

Among the Gallery’s many programs, which aim to engage the general public as well as local artists, Wangaratta has a particular focus on art education for primary and secondary school students.

‘We program with the community in mind all the time. What will our community get out of this? Education is a real priority for both our youth and adult audience. With everything we do, we also have an education program available that caters to the schools. We provide a free school bus for the schools within the City of Wangaratta – they don’t have to pay for it. So we eliminate one of the barriers to access, which is transport to the gallery.’

VISIT WANGARATTA ART GALLERY

Nolan welcomes locals and visitors to attend the Gallery and join one of their programs, even if they have never participated before. Upcoming events include:

The Hassall Collection: A selection of Contemporary Indigenous Art, currently showing until 27 May, is an exhibition of contemporary Indigenous works featuring artists such as Sally Gabori and Tommy May. Nolan said, ‘We had Judith Ryan open the show on Saturday – it was a real coup for Wangaratta and a great event.’

Beard and Influence opening on 26 May and running until 8 July is an exhibition of prints by artist Clayton Tremlett that considers ideas around convicts, larrikinism, resistance to authority and the emergence of a national identity. Nolan is excited to welcome the younger community into the Gallery with this exhibition, noting: ‘We actually have a beard competition accompanied by beers, bluegrass and burgers happening which will be a great afternoon.’

The 6th Biennial Petite Miniature Textile exhibition, which regularly receives over 200 entries, will open on 2 June and runs until August 19. Petite showcases the best small textile artworks from around the nation.

Nolan said: ‘One of the most important roles of an art gallery is about giving the space for self-reflection and allowing for the observation that not everyone is the same. There is not just one way of doing things – it’s about tolerance and empathy and divergent thinking, and we want to provide that place of reflection for the community. We want our community to be comfortable in the space.’

To learn more about the exhibitions and programs at Wangaratta Art Gallery visit wangarattaartgallery.com.au

About the author

Andrea Simpson is an ArtsHub staff writer.

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