(expanded) letter to the editor 1.7.16 (not printed)

In response to "Anderson House group to be set up" http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/news/81628331/Anderson-Park-house-group-to-be-established

Mr. Kennedy’s assertion that he supports Anderson Park Art Gallery (APAG) coming together with the Southland Art Society (SAS) and the Southland Museum & Art Gallery (SMAG) to pursue a way forward is hard to believe in light of the recent submissions made to the Invercargill City Council’s Annual Plan in which the organisations included in the consultation document, for example, submitted in pursuit of very different agendas and associated funding proposals. There was no consultation whatsoever between the groups in regard to the potential of a joint submission and the consultation document itself made no mention of the Southland Regional Development Strategy in reference to either SMAG or APAG’s proposals. The Southland Art Society’s submission did not request any funding support nor has it received any Council operational funding but rather proposed that representatives from ICC, SMAG, APAG and SAS meet to discuss the potential of working with representatives to further the agenda of the Southland Regional Development Strategy. Last year SAS proposed the sharing of the existing City Gallery site as a temporary solution to allow Anderson Park Art Gallery to maintain a public presence in the city until a longer term solution could be reached. SAS does not maintain a collection but rather focuses on the support of artists through the production of exhibitions, workshops and events. SMAG also delivers a programme of exhibitions and events as did APAG prior to its closure. Although the word collaboration has been thrown around frequently, saying it is very different from taking the action necessary to make it happen.

While the APAG collection of approximately 1 thousand works is not currently accessible to the public, the museum’s collection of what could be closer to 1 million objects/artefacts is lacking the staffing capacity and facilities to ensure accessibility and long term care. Contrary to Mr. Kennedy’s statement the SMAG collection does include artworks held in trust for the Southland/Invercargill communities. One such feature of this is the Southland Art Foundation’s (SAF) collection resultant from administering the William Hodges Fellowship in partnership with SMAG and SIT for many years. The SMAG collection requires additional staffing for the purpose of cataloguing - it would make sense, for example, for underutilized staffing resource being funded by Invercargill ratepayers during the closure period of Anderson Park Art Gallery to be utilised to undertake cataloguing work at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery.

As both organisations see the care of collections as a central focus it would make sense for one policy and storage solution to be developed that ensures the sustainability and public accessibility of these collections which are held on behalf of and funded by this community. A previous proposal to, for example, create a closer association between APAG and SMAG was raised at a APAG meeting in 1976 where an agreement in principle was reached to explore the feasibility of SMAG staff contributing to the staffing resources required at APAG. It was also soon after that a proposal to develop a Southland Art Galleries Liaison Committee was discussed to facilitate greater cooperation between the institutions. It is clearly a good time forty years later for cooperative relationships to be reestablished and for the arts institutions in Invercargill to think of the wider community benefits of working together towards the best and most cost effective solution for the Invercargill and Southland communities.