Gallery in cash crisis

McClelland Gallery. Lyn Johnson Deputy Director at McClelland Gallery.

New era: McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery deputy director Lyn Johnson outside the gallery in Langwarrin last Wednesday. McClelland is seeking new sources of funds after it lost the support of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch when she died just over a year ago. Picture: Gary Sissons

THE McClelland Gallery faces a funding crisis following the end of a $400,000 annual grant from its major patron Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.

Dame Elisabeth’s support ended when she died 14 months ago but the shortfall has only just been revealed by the gallery’s management committee.

The grant was about 40 per cent of the gallery’s annual operational costs of $1 million.

McClelland has sufficient reserves for the short term but will face a major funding crisis in the next two years and is seeking alternative sources of funds.

Director Robert Lindsay told The Times that McClelland, known formally as the McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, was entering the third phase of its life.

“Phase one was when the gallery was established by the McClelland family in 1971, then we had the generous support of Dame Elisabeth, and now we are entering stage three where we are seeking support from the community and government,” he said.

The sculpture park and gallery had been developed into a major cultural institution with a growing international profile, he said.

Mr Lindsay said Dame Elisabeth had been a member of McClelland’s arts advisory council since the beginning. The Elisabeth Murdoch Sculpture Foundation was established in 1989 to buy works for McClelland, and Dame Elisa­beth was the driving force behind the annual $100,000 McClelland Award for sculptors.

Throwing its support behind McClelland is the new citizen lobby group Frankston Community Coalition, formed to get a better deal for Frankston from the two major political parties in the run-up to the state election at the end of November.

Its convenor, former Frankston mayor Christine Richards, said the group had six issues that needed urgent solutions including “the funding crisis facing McClelland”.

She said McClelland was a cultural asset for all Victorians.

“It is the foremost national arts institution promoting and exhibiting sculpture in Australia. Displaying 112 sculptures in an Australian bush landscape setting, McClelland is a unique and much-loved community and artistic asset visited by up to 150,000 visitors a year who pay no entry fee.

“It is the second-most popular gallery outside Melbourne and one of Frankston’s most-visited tourist venues.”

Ms Richards said McClelland’s five staff presented educational, community and public programs that combined art with nature, and the gallery hosted four active arts and craft groups.

“The elegant gallery and well-managed surrounds provide a strong contradiction to those who run down the image of Frankston,” she said.

“Like many galleries, McClelland receives some state government funding through Arts Victoria, but the funding underrates its popularity.”

She said McClelland Gallery received $110,000 from Arts Victoria in 2012 when 128,000 people visited the gallery.

“Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen received $1.42 million and had 75,000 visitors.”

Sculpture was an important part of arts culture and deserved more recognition, she said.

In the lead-in to the state election, “we will be asking all major parties to secure the future funding of McClelland Gallery”.

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