City councillors were notably absent from the crowd of 150 business owners, art lovers, educators and community members who gathered at the Friends of Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery’s event, MONA Comes To Coffs.
Leigh Carmichael, the original Creative Director of the Museum of Old and New Art and now Mona’s DarkLab, headlined the sell-out fundraising gala on Friday night.
MONA has generated an unprecedented tourist boom for Tasmania, and as a driver of that vision, Leigh had a clear message for Coffs Harbour: if you are going to create a Cultural and Civic Space with a new regional gallery, library and museum, you must above all be brave.
“If you get it right it will inspire confidence and generate growth. Above all else, you will create a legacy; that’s bigger and more important than economics. It will create a stronger community,” Leigh said.
He said the success at MONA was more about bravery than money: challenging established views and taking creative risks. Advice the politicians may not be ready to hear.
Noticeably absent from Friday’s event were Coffs Harbour’s councillors. A missed opportunity according to Friends’ President Heather McKinnon.
“Not only did we have Leigh who sits on the board of the Australian Council for the Arts but we also heard from Ben Roche, SCU Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Chair of Regional Arts NSW,” Heather said.
“They are two key funding bodies for the arts and our councillors, about to embark on the biggest-ever funding project for cultural facilities in Coffs Harbour, weren’t there to listen.”
The monthly meeting of Coffs Harbour City Council scheduled for Thursday will determine whether the next stage of funding for the new cultural space is granted, says Heather.
“We urge council to continue to be brave and pursue the cultural vision they so clearly identified. We also encourage the community to come along and voice their support.”
Friday’s fundraiser helped boost the Friends’ contribution to building the regional gallery’s collection to $10,000 for the year, furthering the group’s ambition to position Coffs as a centre for still life art.