SAM-ONA for Shepp

By James Bennett

Before the Museum of Old and New Art was built in Hobart the city did not have a lot of drawcards.

According to different experts and reports, it has provided a massive tourism and economic boost to the city and state since it opened in 2011.

Rather than just sitting in northern Hobart as a gallery, MONA has expanded to become probably the biggest asset in the state besides the overall natural beauty and environment.

Its impact on the state was exemplified this year at the recent wonderful and weird winter festival Dark Mofo, which drew record crowds.

There’s no reason why the new Shepparton Art Museum can’t provide the same boon to our town and region.

A recent trip to the Tassie capital meant a visit to two well-known Hobart attractions: Salamanca Market and MONA.

It was on the weekend but both places had the same thing — tourists spending money.

Salamanca Market had people buying locally sourced products such as food, alcohol, clothes, artwork and woodwork, with the surrounding bars, cafés and other stores constantly generating business.

The restaurant and café inside MONA were also abuzz with people.

According to the ABC, the year before MONA was built about 900 000 people visited south of the mainland.

Six years after opening that number jumped to 1.26 million people and $2.33 billion was pumped into the economy.

The Business Council of Australia has reported about one in five visitors to Tasmania visited MONA.

Local people might think building the new SAM is a waste of money and because they’re not interested in art don’t believe it will work.

More importantly they see it as a waste of ratepayers' money. Some argue they they're paying exorbitant rates and the best they receive is rubbish collection.

If SAM can create its own identity, it should mean big bucks for the region.

Shepparton has some wonderful galleries and museums that can all benefit from the new SAM.

This includes the timely upcoming extension of the Shepparton Motor Museum through its Museum of Vehicle Evolution.

SAM takes part of its strategy from the United Kingdom, where all public galleries and museums are free.

Like SAM, there is a donation box at the front where people can throw in any amount of money.

It’s common to see these donation boxes stacked with British sterling, which is pumped back into the operations and maintenance costs, saving the government millions.

SAM will also be hoping to continue housing exhibitions that can draw a particular type of art lover.

Another way SAM can make money is by providing the promised event space for weddings and parties.

Renting out a gallery or museum is common around the world and does not come cheap. Some places will charge more than $100 000 as a flat fee.

Shepparton can play the same role as Hobart and be a tourism hub. Great surrounding features such as the Murray River, the Riverina, mountains, country scenery and wineries are all within a two-hour drive.

It’s the job of SAM to help provide dollar expansion throughout the region and that means more cash for other quality attractions, such as the Shepparton Motor Museum.

What would be nice to see — although it is unlikely to happen — is SAM generating a strong enough profit that our council rates go down.

If rates do not decline then Greater Shepparton City Council needs to identify through the community what infrastructure projects need to be built.