A former Shepparton Art Gallery director has called for the establishment of a community fund to buy local indigenous artwork for the yet-to-be-built new Shepparton Art Museum.
Joe Pascoe, who was gallery director from 1988 to 1997, was prepared to pledge $100 and asked for 100 other people do the same.
Mr Pascoe said Shepparton district indigenous artists were creating international standard artwork which needed to be bought now to form part of a local collection to be shown at the new SAM facility.
During a recent visit to help curate Kaiela Arts’ Design Roots exhibition, he was inspired by the work of Shepparton artists such as Eric Brown and Eva Ponting.
‘‘I think what is being done now is fantastic — these people are extremely good and are producing art better than anything from Melbourne or Sydney,’’ Mr Pascoe said.
‘‘I think it would be daggy to spend $20000 on something lukewarm from outside the region.
‘‘You come to Shepparton and you want to see something interesting from the area.’’
He said Shepparton now had a thriving arts scene with a strong multicultural influence.
‘‘It’s like a train station with different cultures arriving — it’s been happening since the 1920s,’’ he said.
He said the former Gallery Kaiela — now Kaiela Arts — was an inspiring success story.
‘‘It has a real sense of soul and purpose and has become a safe home for Aboriginal people.
‘‘It’s avoided the tourism trap — you can buy virtually anything for half price in terms of excellence. It really does stack up,’’ he said.
After leaving Shepparton in 1997, Mr Pascoe worked as an arts advisor for the Australia Council in Sydney before moving to Melbourne to become chief executive and artistic director of Craft Victoria.
He is now an app developer and creative arts business consultant.
He warned SAM administrators against investing too heavily in tourism.
‘‘Shepparton Art Museum has to get past the idea of glossy magazine shows.
‘‘It needs a strong curatorial team split between ceramics, indigenous art and the rest of the collection,’’ he said.
‘‘It needs to steer away from tourism — that’s a very short-term agenda.’’
SAM foundation board member Anne McCamish said the board welcomed Mr Pascoe’s initiative.
‘‘We do have to set up a mechanism to collect any donations specifically for indigenous art — but we are very happy to support the idea,’’ Ms McCamish said.
She said the board would be ready to accept donations for indigenous art after Christmas and New Year.