Feature Gallery | Grafton Regional Gallery

Q&A with Grafton Regional Gallery Director, Niomi Sands

The Grafton Regional Gallery has recently opened its doors after a major $7.6 million redevelopment. In 2018 the Gallery was awarded the funding from the Create NSW Regional Cultural Fund to undertake the project creating a vibrant regional arts and cultural destination for the Clarence Valley. The exciting project included the construction of a new state of the art main gallery at the rear of the existing gallery; collection storage above flood level; conservation area; loading dock and temporary exhibition storage. Repurposing of existing spaces including, the studio workshop and exhibition facilities for improved and expanded events, meetings, artist engagement and professional development and the old commercial kitchen was transformed into artist on site accommodation.

How have the new gallery spaces opened up opportunities within your programming?
The new and reconfigured gallery spaces have opened up wonderful opportunities for the Gallery to host exciting exhibitions on a larger scale and from well renowned cultural organisations like never before. With the new double height space, the Gallery can accommodate larger installation works that can be viewed from the ground and top floor, opening up a wonderment of possibilities. Currently the Gallery is hosting the extraordinary and mesmerising National Photographic Portrait Prize 2020 from the National Portrait Gallery, whilst celebrating our local artists in Drawn: another view and a collection exhibition curated by local First Nations artist Dani Gorogo.

If you could have a conversation with yourself before the building process began, what would you tell yourself?
The building process was extremely rewarding. Having been involved in all parts of the development of the project, I feel I know the new building inside out. It’s almost like I have downloaded all of the best parts of any Gallery that I have visited within Australia and overseas for the past fifteen years, to create this magnificent new Gallery. With the knowledge I now have, I would ask quirky technical questions about seemly obvious building elements.

What is some of your favourite feedback from visitors so far?
The best feedback that we have had from visitors so far is that they feel they have been transported to the city as soon as they enter the new space. Most people are so proud that a facility of this calibre is now available in their town. So many people have come up to tell me at other events across the valley how much they really like the new gallery and that they are excited to see the next exhibitions coming up.

How can artists get involved? 
Throughout the year the Gallery provides a variety of opportunities for artists to get involved in, including exhibitions, creative workshops, skills development and networking events and artist in residency opportunities. We list all of our artist programs on the website and on the Gallery social media channels. Currently, we are calling for entries for the 2021 Clarence Valley Indigenous Art (CVIAA) Award from First Nation artists living in the Clarence Valley and entries close 4 June. In conjunction with CVIAA, there is also Art Kick Start, which is support available for First Nations artists in the Clarence to assist with artwork creation and presentation costs.

See more from Grafton Regional Gallery.

Image | Goldberg Aberline Studios, Unwrapping, 2020, single use plastic, variable. Courtesy of Goldberg Aberline Studios. Photographer Simon Hughes