BRINGING COLLECTIONS TOGETHER:
Toowoomba Regional Council Art Collection Policy
Toowoomba Regional Council was formed in 2008 when the Queensland Government rationalised regional councils statewide. Seven shires including Clifton, Goombungee, Millmerran, Oakey and Pittsworth were amalgamated with Toowoomba City to form a 12,973 square kilometre council area. Ultimately, although opinions may vary, the TRC became a functionally cohesive operation. However, five years on, focus is turning to some areas still in need of review and action.
One such area yet to be ‘amalgamated’ relates to the diverse range of ‘gallery spaces’, art works and art objects that exist within the TRC region. It seems that over time the seven shires developed their art collections independently. Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery (TRAG) appears to be the only gallery that has developed to incorporate recognised industry standards with staffing and council approved policies in place. It is acknowledged that artworks existing in the other former shires may not be appropriately catalogued, covered by a condition report, nor displayed/stored in accordance with nationally accepted art gallery/museum practices.
As a means of resolving this situation, a discussion paper (download pdf here) has been prepared by TRAG gallery personnel, assisted by local Creative Regions representative Sally Johnson. In February 2013 Johnson presented workshops in each of the regions to unpack the discussion paper and receive community feedback.
We attended the Toowoomba workshop along with around 10 other interested participants. This included TRAG gallery staff, artist Evan Hollis, President of Arts Council Toowoomba–Jennifer Wright (Summers), critic and artist Sandy Pottinger and artist Christian Lowe. Each participant expressed their interest in the art of the regions and concerns for appropriate consideration for those works.
Their comments included:
- That the work does need to be catalogued and made available to the community (online)
- Condition reports need to be prepared
- A survey of regional display spaces and their compliance with industry standards is needed
- Recognition of the importance that these artwork hold for each regional area and that each collection represents the ‘uniqueness of the place’ in which it resides
- That care is taken to not seem that the process is about TRAG acquiring the ‘best’ works and de-accession works that don’t match the big city (Toowoomba) opinions of what is ‘art’
- That these regional collections represent local stories and ‘community memory’ and need to be respectfully handled
- Concern about these regional collections being static and without direction
- That these collections need to be working collections – i.e. be exhibited, curated into special shows of, or about the locality
- That the TRC, in identifying and cataloguing these artworks, work towards developing strategies that support the enhancement of these regional collections. Essentially by financing staffing needs, the upgrading of venues and ongoing revitalisation of regional galleries by purchasing budgets for new works
Sally Johnson logged these comments during her presentation of the discussion paper. One significant point was that the collection should have a title that encompassed the regional stakeholders for example, The Toowoomba Regions Art Collection. Names and contact details were taken for those attending to pass on further developments of this TRC Art Collection Policy.
We acknowledge the great steps that both the TRC and Creative Regions, through Sally Johnson, have taken with the preparation of this discussion paper and the ongoing actions and responsibilities that will emerge in the future. There can be no doubt these discussions will lead to decisions that will influence and forge new possibilities for art, artists, and the communities that they serve across the region.
Reported by Dr Doug Spowart