Statement on the closure of the Castlemaine Art Museum

A letter from Professor Charles Green and Dr Lyndell Green, endorsed by AAANZ President Anthony White:

 

We are writing to express our deep and grave concern at the closure of the Castlemaine Art Museum and the sacking of its staff, due to the long-running crisis in the Museum’s finances.

 

The Board of the Gallery has emailed all its members announcing the Gallery’s closure (into a state akin to hibernation or mothballing, as opposed to being wound up) and, it seems, the sacking of the staff due to the Gallery’s inability to continue professional operations within its tiny income. The Board hopes this closure will not be permanent but it is hard to imagine without a series of interventions that it will not be. Yesterday, two very generous acts of private philanthropy were such interventions, but by themselves are just part of a solution that has not yet been formulated. These will enable opening on a limited basis and will permit the hard-working Board to develop a plan for sustainability.

 

Castlemaine Art Museum is a proud member of Victoria’s Regional Art Gallery network. The regional galleries of our state are superb, as well as being essential elements of regional communities. In recent years the Gallery has become a vibrant institution connected with the extraordinarily active art community of the town and to the wider art world of the nation. The Museum is unusual amongst regional galleries in being neither owned by its municipality nor receiving a sizeable portion of its operating funds from local government. The Gallery’s Director and part-time Curator have been active, vital and highly professional, and had cultivated connections with the larger, nearby, immensely successful Bendigo Art Gallery and the NGV. The Board, the new Director and the new Curator had also been very active and energetic in bringing what had become a dilapidated and isolated museum into the 21st century. Not least in reforming an antiquated and inadequate old governance structure. The Castlemaine Art Museum has an extraordinarily large membership, approximately 650 members, amazing for a regional town. Attendances have risen considerably in recent times.

 

The mothballing is therefore shocking, particularly in its impact already on the hard-working and successful young staff of the institution. We therefore call on the local municipality, whose support is very, very small, and Creative Victoria to intervene urgently, as this is a collection with paintings of national significance at stake, and a beautiful building in a town close to a major regional city, and commuter and day-trip distance from the metropolis of Melbourne. The extraordinary private generosity suddenly announced on Wednesday evening will not by itself solve a problem that has been looming for many years and which has now become critical.

 

Professor Charles Green and Dr Lyndell Green

 

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