The old Lismore Regional Gallery in Molesworth Street, date of photograph unknown.
The old Lismore Regional Gallery in Molesworth Street, date of photograph unknown. Courtesy of Lismore Regional Gal

Last drinks at Lismore Regional Gallery

SIXTY-THREE years after the Lismore Regional Gallery opened in Molesworth Street, a growing art collection and community interest has outgrown the building and it's time for farewell drinks.

Today will be the last chance to see works inside the gallery before it reopens later in the year at a new site called the Lismore Quadrangle, off Keen Street in town.

Director Brett Adlington will host last drinks at the gallery from 1-3pm.

"I'll say a few words," said Mr Adlington, "but we wanted a low key way for supporters to come and have a chat, share some memories.

"I grew up in Lismore and have memories of the gallery as a kid - my father had a camera shop in town and I'd work there in the holidays and visit the gallery.

"We've been doing a social media campaign, a lot of people have talked about their first shows here or the Spring (fundraising) Ball we used to host in the early '90s."

Community at (he)art

Mr Adlington has been Director since 2010 and found it hard to pick his favourite memories but said two openings stood out.

"At the end of 2015 Hiromi Tango - a Japanese artist based on the Northern Rivers - led a big community project where 300 people contributed to an installation using wool.

"She was interested in art as therapy and so we worked with groups in the disability sector, lots of young people, pre-schools and schools.

"The opening was a real celebration of all the people involved."

Community contributions have defined much of the gallery's output, particularly under Mr Adlington's stewardship.

"In 2013 we ran a project looking at the owner builder culture on the Northern Rivers," he said.

"We drilled into what makes this region special, houses that stemmed from the Aquarius culture.

"We chose five separate houses that were built and had survived (over the years), we documented the houses and made a film."

Mr Adlington said the project attracted "real interest" from the community.

"We were bursting at the seams with people on opening night," he said, "that's when we launched a campaign to pledge support for the new gallery".

Charming limits

The heritage listed bank building was designed in secessionist architectural style around 1910, Mr Adlington said, and was council owned.

"Regional galleries are often housed in old banks," he said, "the bank manager lived upstairs, my office is perhaps in the (former) bedroom".

"There are some really lovely elements to the building, it has some charm but there is no real climate control and that limits the works we can borrow.

"The three downstairs places are quite small, people have to spill into other rooms on opening nights and we don't really have capacity for workshops.

"There is no loading dock, we have to unpack works either from trucks pulled into the bus zone - which we try not to do - or across the road."

Carrying works across the road in bad weather was risky, Mr Adlington said and meant the gallery was very limited in what staff could borrow from major institutions.

A lack of storage, poor existing storage conditions and and doorways too narrow to fit larger works further restricted the gallery's exhibition potential.

More space for more art

The gallery's new site - part of the old Limore High School and sharing space with the council library and Northern Rivers Conservatorium - was at least five times the size of the old bank building, Mr Adlington said.

New features planned included a dedicated space for events and workshops, a small artist's studio, four times the old exhibition space and a rotating display from the gallery's permanent collection of around 1000 works from artists including Jon Molvig, Margaret Olley, former Northern Star photographer Jackeline Wagner and a broad range of '70s and '80s ceramics by Northern Rivers' artists.

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