$50 million Shepparton Art Museum finally unveiled

Words by Della Vreeland
Images supplied

The time has finally arrived. The state-of-the-art Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) is set to open this month following multiple delays due to the COVID pandemic.

Dubbed a landmark cultural destination, the $50 million awe-inspiring museum has been designed by internationally renowned architects Denton Corker Marshall. The design was unanimously selected from an architectural competition in 2017 and endorsed by the Greater Shepparton City Council.

According to Denton Corker Marshall founding director John Denton, SAM represents an important cultural contribution to a regional city.

‘Sitting between the lake and the main road into town from Melbourne, it presents a strikingly bold signal – a new contemporary building added to the fabric of the city,’ he says.

The structure is designed to act as a ‘live’ building, the space is characterised by simplicity and clarity, with every surface presenting an opportunity for display, event or installation.

Conceived as a land sculpture immersed into the surrounding landscape, the museum is the tallest building in Shepparton and acts as a beacon in the town’s low, flat topography.

The museum houses over 4,000 artworks, four main gallery spaces including a dedicated Kids Space, Visitors’ Information Centre, Kaiela Arts Aboriginal community arts centre, outdoor amphitheatre and Art Hill, as well as a cafe and 150-person event space and terrace.

‘The building is about hope and aspiration, with a range of welcoming spaces and places designed to invite all members of the public to meet, enjoy, and call their own through arts and culture,’ SAM artistic director and CEO Rebecca Coates says.

‘There’s a play of theatre, performance and comfortable reflection with natural light and views to the landscape connecting people to context and landscape.’

SAM only recently transitioned from working under the council to operating as a not-for-profit independent model.

It was also during this time that the museum started moving into the newly-constructed building. Nestled upon the banks of Victoria Park Lake, the museum was to open earlier this year had it not been for the extended lockdowns.

‘It’s been very challenging this year,’ Rebecca says. ‘It’s meant we’ve had to reschedule, rethink, and look at timelines. But all-in-all, given what’s happening in other sectors, it could be so much worse.’

One of Australia’s leading art museums, SAM is renowned for its significant connection to ceramics as well as indigenous artists and works. Located in a regional town with a rich multicultural landscape, the museum serves to further the town’s flourishing community through welcoming, inclusive and engaging spaces for all.

The new museum’s inaugural suite of exhibitions will feature works by emerging and established Australian artists, spanning sculpture, painting, video, photography, ceramics and installation. It is also set to showcase Australia’s most significant collection of south-east Australian Aboriginal art, presented alongside a dynamic lineup of world premiere Australian exclusives and commissions celebrating artists from across Australia and around the world.

‘SAM holds a special place in the hearts of Australians, presenting work by some of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists, locating their work within a global context,’ Rebecca says.

‘These first exhibitions speak to our unique people and place and acknowledge and celebrate our local Yorta Yorta people and shared culture.

‘This is the most significant and exciting moment in SAM’s history as an organisation. I look forward to sharing this new chapter that will build on its past legacy and create a new vision for the future.’


THE DETAILS:

WHAT: Shepparton Art Museum opening
WHEN: Saturday, November 20
FIND OUT MORE: sheppartonartmuseum.com.au

We wish to acknowledge the Yorta Yorta people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Collection of significant Aboriginal objects digitised at Hamilton Gallery

Words by Della Vreeland
Images supplied

The largest and oldest collection of Australian Aboriginal objects on Gunditjmara Country are set to become digitised as part of a significant cultural project at Hamilton Gallery.

The project is being led by Gunditjmara woman Denise Lovett, who boasts a strong background in Aboriginal heritage management and protection.

Having worked with the Gallery team for the past three months as their Aboriginal Digitisation Support Officer, Denise has analysed almost 100 works within the gallery collection, with a specific focus on Gunditjmara objects.

‘There’s a small collection at the Dunkeld Museum, the Glenelg Shire Council office in Casterton, and other small collections in Warrnambool and Portland,’ Denise said. ‘But to have a collection of Aboriginal objects of this size and age is quite rare.’

The project has involved digitising hand-crafted instruments by Gunditjmara peoples onto collection management software, capturing images and details of each item, managing records, and ensuring key information surrounding background and cultural significance is documented.

The objects in the collection include wood-carved boomerangs, shields and digging sticks, as well as intricately woven baskets.

Having benefited from the mentorship of local Gunditjmara-Boandik Elder Uncle Johnny Lovett, Denise said it was a privilege to work with the largest, oldest collection of Aboriginal crafted objects on Gunditjmara Country.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity as a Gunditjmara woman to handle these objects, especially the Western District collection, which I found particularly interesting.

The project is taking place as part of the state’s Regional Gallery Digitisation Project, with the process laying strong foundations for future partnerships between the Gallery and Gunditjmara First Nations.


THE DETAILS:

WHAT: Digitisation of Gunditjmara Country Aboriginal objects
WHERE: Hamilton Gallery, 107 Brown Street, Hamilton
FIND OUT MORE: hamiltongallery.org

We wish to acknowledge the Gunditjmara people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Shepparton Art Museum director talks lockdown, creativity, and maintaining connection with community

Words by Della Vreeland
Images Supplied

For over six years, Rebecca Coates has been harnessing her love for art and curatorship and channelling it for the benefit of the Shepparton community and beyond.

As director and CEO of the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM), Rebecca says her goal has always been for SAM’s exhibitions and programs to not only be locally relevant but to engage with global contemporary ideas. But once the health pandemic hit in 2020, Rebecca and her team were forced to reconsider how these aims would continue to be recognised and implemented.

‘It was all about how we would continue to work with our community and connect with them – because this was all new to everyone,’ she says. ‘We took our programs digital, and early on they were all so hilariously amateur, but we’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t work, so that has been invaluable.

‘We documented and photographed our collection so we could make that available to the public thanks to some Work for Victoria funding, and were able to support local people and keep them employed.’

We continued to remember and, if we could, celebrate what we loved about the arts and cultural space.

As if the advent of COVID wasn’t enough of a challenge for the SAM team, the museum was also transitioning from working under council to operating as a not-for-profit independent model.

At the same time, the museum was in the midst of moving into its newly-constructed contemporary building nestled upon the banks of Victoria Park Lake. While the new building was set to open early this year, the extended lockdowns really threw a few spanners in the works.

‘It’s been very challenging this year,’ Rebecca says. ‘We were meant to open in March, but that was delayed because of COVID so we had to again rethink how we engage and what we do.’

‘We’ve increased our online programming and digital collection online, and have continued to work where we can installing programs so we can open as soon as we can. (But) we have freight coming from interstate so there are considerable parts of our install that have been affected. We like to think we are totally an essential service, but we’re not.’

The state government recently announced that regional Victoria would ease out of lockdown restrictions – with the exception of Shepparton which is still exhibiting relatively high case numbers. Rebecca says as soon as restrictions do lift, they will be able to focus on restarting their installations safely and appropriately.

‘It’s much better to be sensible about it,’ Rebecca explains. ‘It’s meant we’ve had to reschedule, rethink, and look at timelines. But all-in-all, given what’s happening in other sectors, it could be so much worse.’

One of Australia’s leading art museums, SAM is renowned for its significant connection to ceramics as well as with indigenous artists and works. Located in a regional town with a rich multicultural landscape, Rebecca says the museum serves to further the town’s flourishing community.

‘(The museum) needs to be something you can bring your own experience to, part of a larger whole. And that’s what I call the wider contemporary art world,’ she says. ‘I think that will continue and it reinforces Shepparton’s rich multicultural community.’

While it’s hard to know when exactly Shepparton will open up, Rebecca says she’s extremely proud of how her colleagues have been managing the crisis.

The museum recently launched its Sketch program, a five-week series that celebrates artists in the region, while providing art-lovers and dabblers with the chance to participate in workshops aimed at inspiring creativity in lockdown.

‘We want to showcase artists and creators doing good things, engage with a community who values art and culture and wants to have fun, and do that in a way that is part of a larger whole,’ Rebecca says.

‘We just need to be really clear about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it. We have to be a bit more flexible, but we will find a way to do it with our friends and colleagues in the arts and culture space.’


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Shepparton Art Museum
FIND OUT MORE: sheppartonartmuseum.com.au

We wish to acknowledge the Yorta Yorta people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Why winter makes for the perfect time to explore Ballarat

Words by Della Vreeland 
Images supplied
#sponsored

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, it is for me anyway! As a Ballarat local, I find the winter season to be the perfect time to explore all that our city has to offer, especially after months of being stuck indoors due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

People often shudder at the thought of stepping outdoors during the wintertime. But over the last few years, Ballarat has really learned to embrace the chilly season and bring everyone else along for the ride. Basically, it’s as easy as rugging up in your puffer jackets, beanies and boots, and soaking the cold up in all its glory. 

Here are 5 reasons that I love winter in Ballarat.

Art Gallery of Ballarat

Following its closure due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Art Gallery of Ballarat is now ready to swing open its heritage doors just in time for the winter holiday season. The oldest and largest regional art gallery in Australia, this institution will warm the cockles of your heart immediately upon entry as you’re greeted by the unique staircase and collage of artworks. With two new exhibitions set to be showcased through the winter season, the gallery is a must-visit during your stay.

Sovereign Hill

You can’t head to Ballarat without venturing to Sovereign Hill. Even though the acclaimed Winter Wonderlights will not be making an appearance this year (for obvious reasons), it doesn’t mean the outdoor museum isn’t worth visiting. You’ll still be able to explore all the wonders of this award-winning attraction as you find yourself transported to the 19th century goldfields. Pan for gold, enjoy a warming drink and pastry at one of the bakeries, admire the beautiful buildings with their Victorian facades, warm up by the fire pits, and try your hand at candle-making. Performances in the Victorian Theatre will also be running (with social distancing in place). As long as you’re rugged up and sporting comfy shoes, you’ll be ready to while the day away in the days of yore.

Warming eats

One of my most favourite pastimes is eating, so I consider myself quite lucky to live in the culinary capital of western Victoria. Ballarat’s cafes and restaurants place a huge emphasis on sourcing local, so you can look forward to specially-curated winter menus showcasing only the best and finest in seasonal fare. My top eateries would have to be Moon and Mountain and Mr Jones, while The Forge, Mitchell Harris and Meigas are amongst some other local favourites.

Village exploration

Another favourite pastime for our family is loading up the car and taking a day trip to one of the city’s neighbouring villages. Ballarat acts as the perfect home base to explore the region’s many hamlets, each boasting its own rich history as well as more mighty fare! Buninyong, Creswick, Clunes, Talbot and Beaufort and just some of the places worth discovering during your Ballarat stay.

The streetscapes

There’s something mystical about the Ballarat streetscapes during the wintertime. The boulevards glisten in the rain’s afterglow, there is a magical and almost eerie contrast between the grey skies and majestic heritage buildings steeped in stories of the past, and the bare trees seem to release a desire within us to rug up and truly uncover the best of the season. Which is just as well, since there really is so much to be discovered.

For more ideas of things to see and do in Ballarat during winter, head to visitballarat.com.au

 

Equus @ Moonambel Wines

With only Google as a guide, it feels like you’re heading into the middle of nowhere to get to Equus Wines. Then the really interesting profile of a modern piece of architecture appears atop a hill, and you find yourself thinking ‘Geez, I hope I’m going there – that looks amazing.’

Arriving at Equus is no let-down of the anticipation. The view is stunning. The modern cellar door overlooks the vineyard and the Pyrenees Ranges beyond.

Wines are typical of the region – intense cool-climate flavours and fine tannins, with winemaker Owen Latta being known for natural, minimal intervention winemaking. It’s worth trusting in Google to take you up the hill for this.

A real surprise though is the discovery of the wooden horse museum through the opposite door. It’s a lifetime’s collection of author and artist, Patricia Mullins. Curated and interpreted with the finesse of any of the great museums, and just a fascinating place to wander. The collection changes regularly to accommodate a particular theme, and is surely worth the trip on its own merits.

Billson’s

In 1865, George Billson purchased the old Ovens Brewery with the aim to fulfil his ambition to be a brewer (after spending time as a publican). Outgrowing that premises, and in response to the vast requirements of a burgeoning settlement during the gold rush, George built a brew tower at the current site in Beechworth. George went on to brew beer here until the 1950s, after which it became a site for the production of cordials by Murray Breweries.

In 2017 the site was bought by Nathan and Felicity Cowan and carefully renovated to house a modern small-batch brewery and distillery alongside the continuation of cordial production.

Today they are brewing a growing range of quality beers, a (proper!) ginger ale, a cider, and with a clever addition to the brewery, are also distilling gin. All are excellent, and there’s something for every taste. It would be remiss of us at this point to neglect to mention the basement Speakeasy bar. It’s spectacular and reminiscent of the hidden bars of the temperance days.

Speaking of taste, cordials are a nostalgic thing. The classic flavour of raspberry cordial will transport you back to your childhood while the raspberry vinegar cordial is so resplendent with ripe raspberry flavour, it’s like a time-machine back to the “please mum, can I have a cordial” days.

There is a cafe on-site serving good coffee and a short but delicious food menu. Take a good look at that coffee machine too – it reflects the Billson’s way with its hand-operated lever pump, and is a thing of great beauty.

Also on-site and worthy of a visit is the Carriage Museum. It houses horse-drawn carriages of various kinds still in their original condition.

Gippsland Art Gallery

Regional art galleries are a thing – seriously important works of art are held and exhibited in significant galleries in regional areas. Gippsland Art Gallery in Sale is a breathtaking renovation of a 1960s brutalist building, housing important works of art from not only the region but also internationally. There are pieces you might have seen at MoNA in Hobart, MoMA in New York or the NGV, sitting comfortably and meaningfully with works by artists who’ve made Gippsland their life’s passion and focus.

The gallery celebrates regional artists who have made a significant impact on the art world, such as Annemieke Mein. The Sale-based textile artist has had a long career and is deservingly described by the gallery as a ‘global phenomenon’.

Take the time to wander slowly through the gallery – entry is free, and the coffee in the port-side window is good.