THE Old Wonthaggi Post Office, which has stood empty and relatively un-used since the library moved premises, has now been suggested as a future home for the Bass Coast Shire Council’s extensive art collection.
In September this year, the Bass Coast Shire Council accepted the offer of a donation of precious artworks and a vast book collection, known as The Robert Smith Social Realism Collection.
However, a prominent location to display the work had not been confirmed, while other pieces in the council’s extensive art collection are stored in council buildings and storage units, away from the public eye.
This is something that Cr Les Larke would like to see changed.
He has a vision for a public art space for the Bass Coast community and potentially establishing a regional gallery in Wonthaggi.
Cr Larke put forth the suggestion at a recent council meeting, asking CEO Paul Buckley to prepare a report on the costs associated with potentially turning the building into an art space for the community.
“Probably not a lot of people know that Robert Smith is in the process of gifting artworks and a book collection to our community,” Cr Larke said.
“It’s been described as a stunning collection. It not only includes the Noel Counihan collection, but also includes Picasso and other very valuable pieces of art.
“Council has significant other art pieces stored in council buildings and in storage.
“I envisage that this be made visible for the community.”
The use of the Old Wonthaggi Post Office as an art space would be beneficial to the community, not just culturally, but economically, according to Cr Larke.
“There is significant scope for economic development if this collection is managed properly, and the potential to look into funding and grants for a possible regional gallery,” Cr Larke said.
“There are many benefits for businesses and the community as a whole.”
Cr Michael Whelan congratulated Cr Larke on his idea, and passionately supported the suggestion.
“We’ve got to think big on these things. I think this report should be the catalyst for taking these discussions further.
“I’m aware of the donation and also I’ve observed a lot of local art from local artists in the area in the council collection, and we hide it away under a bushel at the moment.
“We do need a public space.”
Speaking for both the artistic community and the students of Bass Coast, Cr Larke said the council’s art collection should be on display to influence and inspire generations to come.
“This could be a boon for the education and arts precinct,” Cr Larke said.
“Gifted to us is also a great collection of books; possibly the biggest collection of Shakespearean literature in Australia, or very close to the collection in the National Gallery in Canberra.
“It’s just amazing that this has been gifted to us, here in a working class, mining town with a proud background and heritage.
“Our students will experience visual arts in our community like never before. It’s just an amazing opportunity.”
Mr Buckley will now prepare a report – to be presented to the council at the next meeting in February 2017 – outlining the options of housing and displaying art collections owned by the council.
The report is to include the future use of the Old Wonthaggi Post Office building as an option for an art gallery.