Future visioning is something we all do as arts organisations, but often this blue-sky thinking is so abstract it struggles to become grounded in reality.
That is the antithesis of what Moreton Bay Region has achieved over the past 12 months, opening two new galleries and delivering modifications to its premier gallery at Caboolture.
Leanne Kelly, Co-ordinator Moreton Bay Region Galleries and Museums, described it as ‘a real coming of age for regional galleries’.
Kelly continued: ‘The interesting story is that when local councils went through amalgamations in 2008, they could have gone “let’s just make a mega gallery or museum,” but they chose to keep all the galleries and museums – six of them from different shires – and continue to invest in that decision.’
That momentum has continued through COVID, with a new Redcliffe Art Gallery opening in November, the new Pine Rivers Art Gallery, which opened earlier this month (24 April), and Caboolture Regional Art Gallery sporting a refitted front desk area to improve visitor engagement.
Completing the ambitious growth, Bribie Island Seaside Museum is also undergoing renovations, and will reopen in May.
Kelly makes the point that Council that has not only increased its investment in arts infrastructure, but also increased support for local artists and festivals as the sector struggles to recover from COVID-19.
Future building and cultural tourism
Kelly said that COVID has led to a rise in local tourism this past year, and the galleries are positioning themselves to benefit from that.
What the three galleries deliver is a kind of mini art trail. ‘You can drive to all three in a day and have three different experiences,’ said Kelly. ‘It’s not a cookie-cutter experience.’
The Moreton Bay Region is the third largest growing area in Australia. ‘We sit on the border of Brisbane, so that demographic diversity is shifting with a new train line allowing people to commute for work.’
‘With that diversification we’ve also starting to see creatives live and work in this region, not only people want to engage with creativity,’ Kelly explained.
‘You can drive to all three galleries in a day and have three different experiences.’
– Leanne Kelly
‘Redcliffe has been a tourist destination for over 100 years, so we really wanted to see the new gallery as a point where we can connect with shifting audiences, offering a mix of traditional and contemporary gallery experiences.’
Three Galleries; three perspectives
Kelly said the region has a long history of creativity, and that is played out today with more than 60 exhibitions staged annually across the three spaces.
She described Caboolture Regional Art Gallery as a really beautiful gallery. ‘We receive so much feedback that the experience here is utterly unexpected. The gallery sits in this beautiful building right smack in the middle of town, and there is this moment when you enter and it’s just awe-inspiring.
‘The construction work completed gives a proper arrival point for people. Sometimes we feel we need permission to come into a gallery and this allows that welcoming moment,’ Kelly said.
Taking on more major building works, Redcliffe Art Gallery has relocated to a repurposed building closer to the water. Approached from a foreshore walk, it is a light-filled space with a courtyard, and is geared to gatherings.
‘We chose to put Patricia Piccinini’s exhibition touring from the Queensland Art Gallery at the new gallery because aside from meeting all of the required gallery standards, Redcliffe is a drawcard destination, and is the perfect experience to include in a day out by the bay.’
Later this year it will present an exhibition of Ken Done’s work. ‘It will be fabulous in this space with its proximity to the water. There is a familiarity with Ken’s work, but this show is also pushing into the contemporary zone of what Ken is doing now. It is a good example of what we are doing with our program.’
Turning to its genesis of grassroots community engagement, the Pine Rivers Art Gallery completes the suite of galleries.
‘In addition to the gallery space, it has a massive workshop area. Later this year, we are presenting an exhibition called Green Screen. Animation works made collaboratively for several months in the workshop become the content for a new exhibition. So people are making animations fresh in our space, and visitors can witness months of developing a project that moves hot off the press into the gallery space.
‘It is a lovely model that is laying bare and pushing engagement with the process of making,’ Kelly added.
One of the things Pine Rivers has done off the back of COVID, and to launch its new space, is to shift its formerly national Moreton Bay Art Prize to focus on local entries only.
‘It goes back to our foundations here, and shows that Council is firmly investing in the creatives in our region’, said Kelly.
How to get ‘uplifted’ in Moreton Bay
Running for the past four years, the Uplift program operates across the three galleries, and like this recent ambitious refit and rethink, has also moved into a second evolutionary phase.
Essentially, it commenced as the handing over of exhibiting space to artists for a month-long period – with 30 separate opportunities offered each year.
For Caboolture it is the 25 sq meter ‘Hub’ gallery where the artist/s also get the opportunity to connect with a curator. Pine Rivers is in the process of evolving the former window gallery into a digital opportunity in the new gallery, where it will offer six two-month projects a year.
Redcliffe will again join the initiative but is ‘still percolating what that might look like, having only been opened a few months,’ said Kelly.
Learn more about Uplift and the Moreton Bay Regional gallery offerings. The Moreton Bay Region is located just north of the Brisbane metropolitan area.