Art Shed

Could new SAM be a national icon?

By John Lewis

Arts philanthropist Carrillo Gantner says the new Shepparton Art Museum is set to become a centre of community life for district people and a national and international icon of the city.

Speaking to about 80 people after the Friends of SAM annual general meeting at The Connection in early November, Mr Gantner also appealed to Shepparton people to help support the project financially.

‘‘We need strong local and philanthropic donors to support the (SAM) Foundation. We need people now to be ambassadors for this project,’’ Mr Gantner said.

The Sidney Myer Fund chairman has donated his extensive collection of indigenous art to the new SAM.

The new $34.5 million facility, to be built at Victoria Park Lake, has been funded jointly by the council, Victorian and federal governments and private donations through the SAM Foundation.

The state and federal contributions are conditional upon meeting various private funding milestones.

Building work is set to begin in March next year.

Mr Gantner said while more than $3 million had been raised of the $12 million needed over the next five years, there were still state government hurdles to overcome.

Foundation chairman Peter Quinn supported his appeal.

‘‘We have commitments of $3.5 million and we have more than $1 million in the foundation. It’s looking good, but it’s not an easy or a quick thing,’’ Mr Quinn said.

Mr Gantner said the new facility promised to be a place of civic pride where people can gather together for social occasions.

‘‘It’s not going to be just an arts centre — but a community centre. I expect people will have their weddings here, their birthdays and other celebrations,’’ he said.

Mr Gantner said he was aware some people were opposed to the idea of a new art museum.

‘‘I understand not everyone was brought up with the privilege of access to an arts centre. To some, it sounds wanky or hoity-toity. But I say to those people — do your children go to dance classes? Do you go to the movies, or are you interested in fashion? We intersect with the arts every day,’’ he said.

He said the new SAM will provide employment, business and educational boost for the city.

‘‘It will attract other artists, craft shops and studios — there will be a growth in creative industries around it.

‘‘There will be extraordinary educational opportunities for children to encourage their creativity,’’ he said.

He said the new building would be iconic, elegant and functional.

‘‘It will give Shepparton a new sense of civic pride and self-confidence and genuine national and international recognition.

‘‘It points to the success of Bendigo Art Gallery, and Mona that has changed Hobart and Tasmania’s economy,’’ he said.

Mr Gantner also reminded people of the bold design of the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, ‘‘which turned Bilbao from a dusty industrial town into a place of high fashion and creative industry.’’