Council buries Gallery strategy

PICTURE: BT ARCHIVES

The Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery’s (BHRAG) efforts to elevate its market position within the arts through a new brand, visual identity and future strategy has been put to rest by Council in favor of reverting to the 2002 identity of the Gallery as the Broken Hill City Art Gallery.

The $35,000 spent to rebrand and reinvigorate the identity of the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery included visualizations, strategic marketing plans, style guides and months of work from gallery staff, gallery committee as well as extensive consultation with artists, arts workers, and community members.

Whilst it was agreed that the word ‘Regional’ should be removed from the BHRAG name, Council rejected the newly proposed Broken Hill Art Gallery identity for not emphasizing that the gallery is a “Council asset.”

For the Council majority, the identity of Broken Hill as a heritage city is of primary concern, with many Councillors emphasizing that the branding be associated with Council.

Councillor Bob Algate said the Council should have one symbol and that symbol should be used for all units.

“We should have one logo that reflects what Broken Hill heritage is all about. I would like to see a logo that represents the mining and pastoral industries that built this town.“

The rebrand was deemed by Deputy Mayor Jim Hickey as “too modern” while Cr Algate made a point of concurring with comments made in a previous council meeting that the design was too “arty farty.”

“I am not a teeny bopper, and my views are a little staid in some respects, but as far as I am concerned, we need to get back to having a logo that represents the heritage of the town, it’s a simple thing and it’s not open for debate.”

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Susan Thomas of the Broken Hill Art Exchange said that what needs to be included in the idea of Broken Hill as a heritage city, is that heritage is also about the choices we make in moving forward.

“Heritage is like an inheritance for the future, it is about the future as much as it is about the past.

“It’s something that should continue to reflect on society as it changes.”

Councillor Marion Browne, who proposed an amendment to the meeting motion, said that there were a number of things that were disturbing about the decision to override months of work by BHRAG staff and Committee members.

“What concerned me was that even though the current Council seems to want give more power into the hands of Committees, it seems to be its only when the recommendations from the Committees coincide with what they want.” she said.

“It seems a little contradictory, that something that has come from the Committee is not given due weight by the Council”.

Councillor Darriea Turley AM, who supported Cr Browne’s amendment, emphasized that the personal taste of Councillor’s should not be the basis upon which important Council decisions are made.

“The style guide presented is a marketing tool, it’s about branding and opportunities and how we capitalise on our art gallery. It’s about how we actually engage with the whole community and not just one section of it.”

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There also seemed to be confusion among Councillors about whether the funds had in fact been spent or not.

Bob Allgate acknowledged that he understood the money had been spent and that the design package and strategy presented to Council represented peoples time and labour.

“You don’t come up with these things without at the minimum staff costs,” he said.

Mayor Tom Kennedy appeared to believe the funds were yet to be spent, writing on his Facebook page, “For the record the rebranding was going to cost $35,000 and looked like something a five-year-old could do on the computer.”

Deputy Mayor, Jim Hickey, told the Barrier Truth he was unaware that the money had already been spent and would bring it up at council meeting.

For artist and educator Clark Barrett not allowing the professionals of the art industry to make decisions that relate to the gallery in favour of personal taste from councillors greatly limits the economic potential of a town.

“Broken Hill is known as an art town; I have many times driven tourists around to spend the day going to all the galleries in town, that is why they came.”

Mr Barrett said that art is what largely puts cities on the national and international tourist trail.

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He suggested projects such as the Angel of the North at Tyne and Wear, is great example of an art project, that was initially met with significat protest from the local council, until they later saw the tourism that it generated.

“Council hated it, the local newspaper hated it and went on an incredibly aggressive campaign trying to destroy it, but if you interviewed that council or that paper now, they feature it on their masthead as one of the first things you see.”

Ms Thomas said that the 1993 Sculpture Symposium at the Living Desert, is a similar example of an important local work, whose economic significance was only appreciated later in time, the sculptures now featured on the covers of tourism brochures for Broken Hill.

“It didn’t have a great deal of financial support to make it happen, but if you look at it now, it’s a very proud place for Broken Hill, and it does have major tourism significance.”

Mr Barrett said that the strategies developed by the gallery represented industry professional who understand the market and the economic potential of their field. The decision to remove the word ‘Regional’ was based on research and understanding of the contemporary market.

“If you call something the Broken Hill City Gallery, for the people coming to town will be under the misconception that it is a City Museum,” he said.

“If Council would promote the town for its art and spend the money on it, they would do so much better.”

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