STOCKYARD Gallery Section 86 Committee of Management President Heather Downing and Treasurer Craig Smith made a presentation to South Gippsland Shire Council at last Wednesday’s briefing session asking for $5,000 in annual financial support to cover recurring operational and administrative costs such as the security system, web site, power, maintenance and other expenses.
A written statement from the Committee submitted that it had been doing its best to meet increasingly heavy administrative and financial burdens by meeting “demands from our own resourcefulness and endeavours; however we have now grown to a point that assistance from Council is imperative.”
In support of their plea, arguments were put about the unfair division of the electricity account between the gallery and the Visitor Information Centre, the need for more office and storage space following reduction in gallery facilities when the Parks Victoria office expansion occurred, and the building maintenance undertaken by Council being limited to guttering cleaning and safety matters.
Mr. Smith commented that the single, ageing computer and its outdated software made computer use and accounting unnecessarily difficult, including meeting the needs Council imposed on s.86 committees for financial reporting.
He observed that it was not uncommon for three people to simultaneously want computer access in an office the size of a large cupboard and that was also used for storage!
“We are only just breaking even each month, we are juggling cheques so we don’t go into the red, and it is getting harder each month,” Mr. Smith added anxiously.
Ms Downing stated that the gallery had 60 volunteers on the duty roster, with their tasks extending to tourism information back up during lunchtimes or when specific local knowledge was required.
“Coordinating all of those volunteers is time consuming and if it was being done by someone at Council it would probably require a full time position,” she suggested.
Ms Downing highlighted that Stockyard Gallery was open daily from 10.00am until 4.00pm and boasted facilities that were better than many larger galleries in the region, and consequently drew many tourists.
As part of its contribution to the community, the gallery also provides annual free exhibition space in support of art for health and youth art.
“We’ve grown so much over the last 17 years we’ve created a monster,” Ms Downing told Council.
If Council agrees to Stockyard Gallery’s request, it may be setting some kind of precedent in regards to other types of facilities operated by Section 86 Committees, however Stockyard Gallery is Council’s only art gallery run by a section 86 Committee. The other galleries in Council-owned buildings are covered by variously by an advisory committee (Leongatha Memorial Hall Complex gallery), a tenancy agreement (Korumburra’s Rotary art gallery) or as a Council operation (Coal Creek exhibition space, which is used on an intermittent basis).
Unfortunately Stockyard Gallery did not make a budget submission in June to Council for the 2010/11 budget, so the request is not currently covered in Council’s finances.
However outside the meeting, Mayor Cr Jim Fawcett said Council’s budget was “flexible enough to recognise one-off circumstances as they arise”.
Potentially, Council could assist the gallery for the current financial year and then factor in ongoing support in future budgets.
At the same time, the Mayor reminded that Stockyard Gallery already received “substantial support” from Council in the form of the provision of the building space, which compared favourably to the situation of Meeniyan’s not-for-profit community gallery, which operates from privately-owned premises.
He reiterated what he had advised Ms Downing and Mr. Smith at the briefing, which was their request would be looked at within the context of Council’s current review of Section 86 Committees, which is due to come back to Council for a final decision in October after a draft report is adopted by Council in September and put for public comment in the interim.
“There may well be a case put that we should provide more – but well-tested – support to Section 86 Committees, but that is yet to be established as part of the review process,” the Mayor concluded.