NSW Labor commits $14 million to fund Newcastle art gallery redevelopment


NSW Labor has today made a landmark commitment of $14 million to redevelop the Newcastle Art Gallery if elected next March in a further sign of its determination to revitalise Newcastle and elevate the city on the international stage. 

On a visit to Newcastle today, Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney confirmed that NSW Labor’s $14 million – combined with $7 million from a Labor-led Newcastle City Council would secure the Hunter a world-class arts facility.

“Newcastle has the potential to be a thrilling epicentre of creativity and Labor will ensure the Art Gallery receives the transformation it deserves,” Ms Burney said today.

“A redeveloped Art Gallery will lure tourist dollars to the Hunter, it will bring fresh energy to Newcastle and be a magnet for bright young creative minds.

“The NSW Liberals promised to deliver this project – but passed the buck as soon as they won office.

“It’s time to end the blame game between different levels of government and finally give Newcastle an arts facility that is world class.”

Ms Burney said she was honoured to deliver today’s funding guarantee alongside three colleagues who have fought tirelessly for the Art Gallery. Shadow Minister for the Arts Sonia Hornery has taken a leadership role in driving Labor’s funding commitment. Newcastle Candidate Tim Crakanthorp as the former Chair of the Art Gallery Redevelopment Project Steering Group and Labor Lord Mayoral Candidate Nuatali Nelmes have long pushed for the redevelopment on Council.

Ms Hornery noted that NSW Labor’s $14 million commitment stood in stark contrast to the failure of the State and Federal Liberal Governments to deliver $7 million each.

“The Hunter community has been waiting forever for the Liberals to come to the table with the missing money. Labor believes it’s time to just make the decision and get to work,” Ms Hornery said.

“With a project like the Art Gallery, the economic and cultural return delivered to the community over time transcends any upfront capital investment.

“Our city has plenty of history and character; Labor is now determined to deliver progress and lock in the city’s momentum.”

The Newcastle Art Gallery is the Hunter’s major gallery – attracting more than 70,000 visitors a year and featuring works valued at over $60 million. Admission is free, with a charge for special exhibitions and events.

The Gallery urgently requires expansion in order to realise its potential. Current exhibition space, storage and administration facilities were built in 1977 when the permanent collection was considerably smaller. Today the Gallery has capacity to display less than two per cent of the City’s permanent collection. This is well short of the prevailing industry standard of five to 10 per cent.

The Gallery also needs more space to boost community participation and run income-generating activities such as a café and other retail and commercial functions.

Labor Candidate for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp said: “The economic and cultural benefits from transforming the Art Gallery make this a shrewd investment and quite frankly, a no-brainer for Newcastle.”

“Tim Owen – the previous Member for Newcastle promised to fight for this funding. If elected we will go one step better and deliver it.

“Labor believes a transformed Art Gallery holds wonderful benefits for Newcastle.

“We’ve given up on Mike Baird and we’re not waiting for Tony Abbott. This is a project we believe in and we will guarantee the funding.”

Labor Mayoral Candidate Nuatali Nelmes noted that the Art Gallery redevelopment is the centerpiece of the City of Newcastle’s Master Plan.

“The Newcastle Art Gallery is too important to be used as a political football by the Liberals and independents on Newcastle Council,” Ms Nelmes said.

“If we want to breathe new life into Newcastle, the gallery is a key piece of the jigsaw – and it will be a catalyst for further projects.

“After so many years of advocacy, I am overjoyed that NSW Labor will stump up $14 million and partner with Council.” 

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