Art curator Iain Dawson has returned home to the NSW South Coast as part of a new creative pulse in the region.

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photos Ken Brass

Gallery director Iain Dawson’s enthusiasm is infectious as he shows visitors through the former Bega Valley Regional Gallery’s new home. The building, which at the end of last year reopened as SECCA (South East Centre for Contemporary Art), provides vital space for engaging with the arts for the entire NSW South Coast region. Iain points to some of his favourite pieces in an exhibition called Home, which showcases works from the gallery’s permanent collection. They include Tamara Dean’s ethereal underwater landscapes, the signature Hilda Rix Nicholas’ Bringing in the Sheep and a vast untitled work by Pintupi artist Lorna Ward Napanangka, which reflects her Marapinti dreaming.

“Now we have space to show works that previously had to be kept in offsite storage,” he says. “We were also able to open the year with the touring Archibald Prize exhibition. Previously, we didn’t have enough hanging space to display some of the larger works, so shows of that scale were not possible.”

It’s obvious that the gallery’s facelift is far more than cosmetic as Sibling Architecture’s schmick revamp of the former council chambers attracted more than 6,000 visitors during the summer. The 500sq m space announces itself to locals and holidaymakers who flock to the region’s beaches with a curved textured steel-screen curtain facade punctuated by large, framed windows. “While many people probably thought the old gallery was fine, there’s no doubt the new premises have raised awareness in the community,” Iain says. “During the past 2 years, the gallery has been gifted more than 50 works valued at around $4 million from artists and collectors, as part of the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program. We’ve also developed a foundation to help with the heavy lifting fundraising and running events in the community promoting the gallery.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #154

Outback Magazine: April/May 2024