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The Arts – an underappreciated and undeniable commodity

I’ve read and heard the comment “I’m not really into art” quite a bit over the past few months. The commentary stems from a current review of the Warrnambool Art Gallery and its need for an update. What does it mean for the health and prosperity of our community when people seemingly don’t recognise the role art plays?

The contribution of the Arts to local and global economies is undeniable. At our Volunteering and Creativity Program Day Gareth Colliton, a local artist and advocate for the arts, provided a stunning comparison of the relative contribution of art to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), compared to that of sports. Gareth said, “the Arts contribute about 6% of GDP compared to 3% for sport”. Beyond just the financials, art is also a vital point for community reflection and growth, it is the foundation of our culture and shapes our collective identity. The retention of knowledge in song and stories by First Nations people, the iconic western Victorian landscape paintings of Von-Guerard, Streeton and Chevalier and the relatively unknown fact that Australia’s first ever sound recording was captured in Warrnambool, all point to the Great South Coast being no exception as a region defined by art.

Despite some people thinking they are not into in art, the contemporary presence and passion of the Arts in Warrnambool is on full display, through the various laneways and streetscapes around town and in the volunteer run F-Project Arts hub. The Warrnambool Art Gallery (WAG), given the right opportunity, has an impressive collection around which to grow a world class cultural institution. We only need to look at MONA (Hobart) or the Bendigo Art Gallery to see the potential opportunities this offers in terms of tourism. Investment in the Arts also motivates and attracts creative thinkers, the very people we need to keep evolving socially, and economically. The fact that some people think they are not into art makes this necessity even greater.

The program day also offered a unique insight into the workings of the SES with Bernadette Northeast, a chat with Jaimee Millar, a lunchtime chat with Dan Tehan MP, a tour of One Day Studios with Gareth and a tour of the F Project gallery and workspaces with Helen Bunyon. Thank you to all these speakers for sharing your stories and inspiring our civic participation.

Lachie Farrington, 2022 LGSC Participant.

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