Putting on a brave face: Gallery F members Lynette McDonald, Kate Cotching, Jennifer Matthews and Ann Hayward who face eviction from their gallery space by Arts Mildura. 

AN  Arts Mildura decision taken in January to discontinue its partnership with Gallery F will force a local arts group to look for a new home to stage its regular exhibitions.

The partnership, which was established in 2016, is due to end in September. 

Gallery F committee member and artist Jennifer Matthews said the group has mixed feelings about the decision, but from her point of view her group has been  left out in the cold and are now being forced to seek a ‘good Samaritan’ who is interested in community arts to provide a new venue for the Gallery F group.

“The news was very sudden and very disappointing,” she said. “Gallery F was good for the community and gave an opportunity for local artists who hadn’t exhibited their work before to do that  and kept the cost very low. Now we’re faced with the problem of not having anywhere to go – anywhere to hold our exhibitions.

“We were all volunteers and artists, who enjoyed staging our multiple exhibitions and giving other local artists a platform to expose their work at minimal cost.”

Fellow Gallery F artist Lynette McDonald is also greatly disappointed at the decision.

“Like Jenni, I have been part of the ongoing involvement with Gallery F as a committee member and exhibiting artist,” Lynette said.

 “Basically we were told that they were “going in a different direction”, and as a result, “our group didn’t meet the criteria for their direction.”

“I think they’re going to go more towards performance and more avant garde content and we are probably considered a more traditional genre art group.”

Gallery F founding member, Kate Cotching, said that the group had evolved from the ‘white cube’ concept. That was artwork housed in perspex displays that were located at a variety of businesses around the Mildura CBD.

“White Cube was an artist run initiative which operated on a small scale, and rather than occupying a gallery space, it was made up of a series of perspex cubes which were placed in cafes and other businesses and were updated each month,” Kate said.

“That was established in 2011, and I guess we used a lot of the contacts that we had formed through that program and built on the momentum generated, which would eventually lead to Gallery F’s opening when a collective of like minded artists got together.”

The ‘Weekly contacted Arts Mildura for comment .

The group’s executive director, Gareth Hart,  acknowledged that in January this year, the Arts Mildura board made a deeply considered decision, and that was to formally ask Gallery F to work towards becoming ‘an independently run, self-sufficient operation’. 

“The group has operated completely in-kind within the Arts Mildura building and umbrella program for three years, and many great exhibitions were seen during this time,” Mx Hart said.

 “As part of the Arts Mildura Board’s strategic planning, and aligning with newly-formed vision, mission and values, it was decided that our scant resources should be more focussed and equitable across all our partnership projects.

“This is in line with recent movements of ‘sub groups’ of Arts Mildura, including the Summer Classical Music Festival, Mildura Writers Festival and the Jazz Festival.

 “All of these moments have been a process of Arts Mildura defining and refining where our creative program and administrative energies are best placed to serve the community we love – the Mallee.”

 Mx Hart said that in short, the Board took a long time to consider, debate and flesh out the decision that was ultimately made − years in fact. 

To assist Gallery F, Arts Mildura said that the group was given a total of nine months notice, giving them time to find a new gallery space.

 “On multiple occasions we have offered to support the group in finding a new space, setting up management structures, or whatever support they may need (within our scope),” Mx Hart said.

 “The board and staff welcome proposals and ‘pitches’ for exhibitions from Gallery F, should they wish to show work in the galleries moving forward. This will always be the case – that Gallery F can ‘apply’ as can any other artist, to have an exhibition with Arts Mildura. It is a matter of alignment with our strategic goals, vision, and availability of spaces.

 “We trust Gallery F will see this as an opportunity for this important artist run initiative to deliver their program with full independence and their own, self-managed venue and operations.”

Mx Hart confirmed that space currently occupied by Gallery F in Deakin Avenue will not be continue to use that name once the group vacates.

“Arts Mildura won’t be using the name Gallery F. We feel that this is the intellectual and creative property of the Gallery F team,” they said. 

“They have great community visibility, and the name is easily recognisable and so I am glad to hear they have registered the name and will continue to use it.”

Arts Mildura will be transforming the spaces that are currently occupied by Gallery F, in line with its future planning, and also some strategic opportunities that have come into light this year. 

“As with all organisations in the world, we are carefully developing the program and outputs that meet our long term vision for the organisation,” Mx Hart added.