In Conversation

Fiona Fraser

Lismore Regional Gallery opened the doors to a new purpose-built, climate controlled gallery on 28 October. The new site is a significant redevelopment the old Lismore High School which connects to the Lismore Library and Northern Rivers Conservatorium creating a central cultural hub for the city. We asked curator Fiona Fraser what is planned for their new space.  


Tell us a little about your new gallery space? 
A lot of hard work over the last decade has finally resulted in the new Lismore Regional Gallery building opening on 28 October. We now have four times the exhibition space of the old building, with purpose built galleries, digitally-controlled lighting, museum standard climate control, an artist residency space, events space, outdoor undercover areas, greatly expanded collection store, lift and even a loading dock.  These new facilities have greatly increased the scope and variety of what Lismore Regional Gallery can present, and with our lift, we can finally provide access to all members of the community.

The gallery is located in the newly developed Lismore Quadrangle, a family friendly lawn space flanked by the gallery, Lismore Library and Northern Rivers Conservatorium, quickly becoming a focal point for community events, picnic lunches, dance groups, music, arts projects and more.  It has already proven to be hugely popular, with people of all ages enjoying the space each day.

From your experience, what types of exhibitions resonate most with regional audience? What do you think is the level of demand in Regional Australia of exhibitions showcasing contemporary Craft and Design?
Of exhibitions generated by Lismore Regional Gallery, the most popular ones leverage existing connections between our audiences and artists and stories of this place.  Exhibitions such as ‘Not Quite Square’ celebrating the local ‘alternative’ vernacular of architecture, and by local legend and world-class furniture maker Geoff Hannah have proven extremely popular. 

When touring exhibitions don’t feature artists that are known locally, it is all the more important to make connections through the concepts or medium.  Our region has a strong history of craft, making and design, in particular across ceramics, wood and fibre, with a recent contemporary ‘crafting’ scene of workshops and markets, that crosses over to gallery platforms.

What do you think are the key ingredients for a successful touring exhibition?
There are so many factors in making a successful touring exhibition, and the uptake depends on each gallery’s individual considerations of size, budget, resources and anticipated audience appeal.  Exciting concepts that are well defined and easily conveyed through promotional text and images are key, because getting people through the door is a primary consideration.  From the point of view of a regional gallery with limited staff and funding resources, the crucial factors are the cost of the show, the ease with which it and be presented, and the ways in which it might connect to our local audiences.  The inclusion of public programs are also very important in bringing the show ‘alive’. 

Exhibitions that have multiple points of entry such as Tony Mott’s recent touring exhibition appeal broadly to photographers, and also to fans of photography, music and popular culture.  Tony’s entertaining and engaging artist talks were very well attended. 

Can you tell me a bit about your program? What’s on the horizon for the new Lismore Regional Gallery?
To celebrate the new buildings capacity, the program over the first couple of years includes ambitious locally curated exhibitions, and greater opportunities for local solo exhibitions, alongside significant touring exhibitions.  Our very own tour guide Peggy Popart 

Opening shows Four Women and Dreaming Trails by significant local aboriginal curators Djon Mundine and Alison Williams offer the opportunity to acknowledge local and national aboriginal artists.  Dreaming Trails showcases artists from three local clans commissioned to create works about travel and trade in this area, whereas Four Women features local and national aboriginal artists examining the more global issue of discrimination against women of colour.                    

August 2017 will see the opening of From Here to There: Australian art and walking curated by Sharne Wolff and Jane Denison for which we have been awarded the $40,000 Dobell Exhibition Grant. Art and Walking will be jam packed with challenging and delightful contemporary works underpinned by a highly refined conceptual premise, and at the same time accessible and engaging for all ages.  The Dobell grant will enable us to commission new works (and walks) along with a significant program of public events.

Without giving too much away, we plan to provide exhibition and development opportunities for our local artists, challenge and inspire our audiences with high quality artists, exhibitions and projects from around Australia and beyond, and create a sense of understanding and belonging to our community.  Lismore is very proud of the new gallery and we encourage you to visit and see for yourself what the fuss is all about.

 Find out more about Lismore Regional Gallery here