A recent surge in visitors to Wollongong City Gallery is thanks to a renewed focus on interactive exhibits, according to director John Monteleone.
The gallery welcomed almost twice the number of visitors through its doors in 2013 as the previous year. From 53,000 guests in 2012, the gallery broke the 100,000 visitor milestone last year.
“Our programs are now far more in tune with local communities and stories,” Mr Monteleone said.
“We’ve increased the number of public and education programs accompanying the exhibits, with a focus on the things you get from engaging with art.”
He said the recent focus on education programs for children, enrichment programs for high school students studying art, artist talks, skills workshops, film nights and performances were major factors in the bumper year for the gallery.
“We’ve moved away from the time when a gallery was a passive experience where you look at a painting and move on,” Mr Monteleone said.
“It’s about a sense of engagement, whether through themes of shows more related to community or through more exciting or hands-on activities.”
The current Green Cathedral exhibit on local surfing history is a prime example of the interactive and diverse programs now favoured by art galleries. Including surfboard painting workshops, poetry and open mic competitions, photography sessions and a vintage surf swap meet, the program is opened up to a much wider segment of the Illawarra community.
“We’re showing people that a gallery is a place where many things can happen, not just exhibitions. The experience of a gallery can be multi-layered,” Mr Monteleone said.
Looking forward, he said he was excited about an exhibition on the region’s music heritage, and another on histories of women in the Illawarra workforce.
“We’re getting better at making it more an interactive and less of a passive experience,” he said.
Craft day crowns for kids
Kids got the chance to be king – or queen – for the day on Tuesday, as Wollongong City Gallery hosted a lords and ladies craft day.
Staving off the school holiday boredom, and no doubt giving mum and dad some much-needed downtime, children aged from five to eight enjoyed a day with a medieval slant.
Making their own crowns, tiaras and coats of arms, kids took a step back in time to the days of King Arthur, wizards, dungeons and dragons.
Wollongong City Gallery’s school holiday program continues until next week, with a range of activities including jewellery making, craft and costume design sure to interest even the most hard-to-please youngster.
See wollongong.nsw.gov.au for the full program and more information.
WOLLONGONG CITY GALLERY - COMING UP
■Malcolm Benham, Scrap Culture 1980-2014 (February 8 - May 11)
A retrospective exhibition of drawing, mixed media, sculpture and painting connected by an understanding of form and content.
■Mai Nguyen-Long: Beyogmos (March 1 - May 25) ■ Michele Elliot: whitewash (March 1 - May 4)
A response to issues surrounding boats, border control and the current political climate of disregard towards asylum seekers. Working with found fabrics and clothing, mapping pins and thread, Elliot’s installation evokes a floating memorial through a frieze of ghost-like forms.
■ Postcodes from the Edge (March 15 -May 11)
An art prize and exhibition featuring small format contemporary art works. This prize is open to all artists living within the postcode boundaries of 2508 in the north, 2534 in the south and 2576 in the west.
■The Mann-Tatlow Collection of Asian Art (March 15 - July 20)
Celebrating 10 years of the collection, including Asian ceramics, objects and items of furniture from the Neolithic Period to the early 20th century. ■
Murrimul (March 5 - June 1)
Aboriginal works from the collection. Painting, weaving, ceramics, photography and shellwork by local and nationally significant Aboriginal artists. The exhibition explores the relationship to land, personal histories and provides an insight into a traditional way of life.
■ ArtExpress (May 7 - July 27)