8 March 2024

Griffith War Memorial Museum not gunning to take over art gallery, despite six-tonne artillery display

| Oliver Jacques
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Artillery gun

A WWII artillery gun is not a “hint” that the art gallery’s days are numbered. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

The Griffith War Memorial Museum has no plans to take over the neighbouring Griffith Regional Art Gallery and make it relocate their exhibitions, according to museum committee secretary Pat Cox.

Ms Cox’s committee is the trustee of the crown land that holds both the museum and gallery at 167-185 Banna Avenue, with Griffith City Council paying rent to the committee to keep the gallery at its current location.

Advocacy group Griffith Regional Art Gallery Inc (GRAG) expressed concern at its annual general meeting that the town’s artwork could be made homeless when the gallery’s lease expires in 13 months.

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The installation of an impressive six-tonne WWII artillery gun at the front of both facilities, pointing in the general direction of the gallery, was viewed by one GRAG member as “a bit of a hint” that the gallery’s days were numbered.

Ms Cox ended that speculation.

“There’s no significance in the direction it’s pointing, it could have gone either way,” she said. “It’s actually pointing toward the mural and nobody would want to shoot down that beautiful creation.

“The museum is happy for the gallery to stay put … we would be willing to renew the lease; the council are good tenants.”

Griffith City Council has pledged to build a much bigger, new regional art gallery and engaged consultants to look at where it can go and the form it may take.

But given the financial constraints council is under, this is unlikely to happen in the next few years.

GRAG chairman Brian Sainty said his group needed to explore other options of where a gallery could be placed in the future if it needed to move. He flagged the state government office block at 104-110 Banna Avenue as a possible interim location.

“We can go before we are kicked out, there’s not much we have to move,” GRAG secretary Rhonda Miranda said.

Brian Sainty and Noel Hicks at a table

GRAG chairman Brian Sainty and his deputy Noel Hicks at the annual general meeting. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Councillor Shari Blumer also mentioned that there were vacant premises on the site of Griffith Pioneer Park Museum that could house the gallery.

But there was no need for art lovers to start packing just yet, according to Ms Cox.

“We appreciate the fact that while the gallery is there the council is paying us rent, which is giving us funds to maintain the building and our exhibitions. We are not in any real hurry to see any changes,” she said.

One GRAG member said tourists walking past the facilities would not notice the art gallery is there and would think both buildings were war memorial-themed.

“The artillery gun does overshadow the gallery, which doesn’t have much of a front,” Ms Cox said.

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Griffith War Memorial Committee vice-president Martin Gatto said he obtained the artillery gun from Defence Disposal Services with the intention of attracting more attention to the presence of the museum.

Jason and Sharyn Bourke of Leeton freight company Norcliff Bulk Haulage transported the display at their own expense from Wodonga. A plaque describing the story behind it was installed on Wednesday (6 March).

At GRAG’s AGM, the status quo remained – with Brian Sainty (chairman), Noel Hicks (deputy), Rhonda Miranda (secretary) and Frank Sergi (treasurer) all retaining the positions they’d held over the previous 12 months.

Mr Sainty said he was keen to see more younger people join GRAG and flagged collaborating with a new youth committee formed by Griffith council in the future.

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