Artists push for regional gallery

Angela Hickey and Will Francis. (Joe Mastroianni). 217466_01

By Alesha Capone

Representatives of Wyndham’s arts community held a demonstration at the former Melbourne Water Discovery Centre on Friday, calling on Wyndham council to use the site as a regional art gallery.

The council announced last year that it had acquired the Werribee centre from Melbourne Water.

Since then, groups such as the Wyndham Artists Advocacy Group (WAAG) and RedWest Creatives Co-Op Ltd have been urging the council to transform the centre into a regional art gallery.

WAAG convenor Angela Hickey said last week’s demonstration was held in accordance with pandemic regulations, and included herself and Werribee artist Will Francis.

Ms Hickey said that after acquiring the Water Discovery Centre, the council committed to using the site for an art gallery.

Ms Hickey said that if the centre became a gallery, it would create jobs post-COVID-19 and attract tourists to Werribee – much like the Heide Museum of Modern Art does in Bulleen, in Melbourne’s north-east.

Ms Hickey said the Water Discovery Centre was close to the B24 Liberator Hanger and the Werribee River walking track at Werribee Park, along with a proposed walking track between the Riverwalk Estate and the Werribee CBD.

Mr Francis said that being positioned between Footscray’s arts scene and Geelong meant that Werribee was the ideal place for a regional art gallery.

He said a gallery could work with other regional galleries in the state and become part of an “art trail” for tourists, which could lead onto Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

“We’ve got something to offer here, the west is developing so quickly and there is a real need for something like that,” Mr Francis said.

“We’ve got the building and we have just got to get council on board to be brave enough to do it.

“Council needs to honour its pledge to make it into a gallery.”

RedWest president Ayesha Dharmabandu said the collective was “concerned” that Wyndham council “appears to be stepping back from using the recently purchased Melbourne Water Discovery Centre as a regional art gallery”.

Wyndham chief executive Kelly Grigsby said the council was “still in the process of finalising the purchase” of the former Melbourne Water Discovery Centre.

“Further engagement will take place with the community before a decision on its future use will be made,” she said.