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Tara leaves a lasting legacy

Wednesday, 31st March, 2021

By Neil Pigot

The Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery is in the market for a new manager following the departure of the highly regarded Tara Callaghan last week. 

It’s been a “wonderful, challenging, rollercoaster ride” for the dynamic administrator who arrived in town five years ago not really knowing what to expect.

“I just knew it was a great collection. A lot of people don’t realise it but we hold one of the most prestigious collections in regional Australia.” 

But when she did arrive for her first day on the job it was the gallery building that blew her away. 

“You walk in to the heritage facade and it just keeps going. It’s a work of art in and of itself. 

“The beautiful interior dimensions, the original plaster walls, the staircase. It’s breathtaking.”

The list of Tara’s achievements as manager of the state’s oldest regional gallery is extensive. 

The creation of the award winning FreshBark mentorship programme, national media attention for a number of exhibitions and a commitment to the ongoing support for local artists, to name just a few. 

Tara herself is particularly proud of the increasingly close and mutually productive relationship she’s developed with the Art Gallery of NSW. 

One that is beginning to have
hugely beneficial flow on effects. 

“They’ve been made aware of the fabulous talent we have out here. You don’t need to go to Arnhem Land to see indigenous artists. 

“We have them here. And now the State Gallery is putting a lot of focus on the
far west.”

And what is drawing their focus, amongst other things is what Tara calls “The politically charged art community with the water and the land and seeing how both indigenous and non-indigenous artists interact with that. 

“And that focus is raising our profile
and helping drive programmes here in Broken Hill.”

Kathy Graham from West Darling Arts suggested that perhaps Tara’s greatest achievement may well be the digitisation of the both the gallery and the Albert Kersten Geo Centre’s collections. 

A move that has made the works held by the two sites available to curators, historians and academics around the world. 

It was a process that Tara drove from whoa to go with a focus on ensuring the future financial sustainability of the gallery.

“If you only cycle within your own environment it doesn’t get you far in either a funding or philanthropy point of view. 

“It’s always important to remember that public institutions like this gallery operate on a state and national level, that’s where the funding comes from and you need to have presence at that level.” 

But it hasn’t all been about securing funding or raising the gallery’s profile. 

Unlike State galleries in capital cities that serve a single purpose, to simply exhibit art, Tara has also worked to acknowledge the very different role a gallery plays in the life of a rural city. 

And by programming a wide variety of performances in the gallery space, the result has been the creation of a dynamic community hub, in many ways a de-facto arts precinct all in one building.

“Art out here can’t be elitist. It not only links the community but it has a whole range of other roles. 

“It effects well-being, health and learning. It’s something everyone should be able to get involved in. 

“And because we’re a gold coin donation anyone can. 

“There are no social or financial barriers to engage. 

“Nothing pleases me more than seeing someone come in during a break from work because they know they can sit in a friendly space and look at art.” 

But perhaps Tara’s greatest legacy, according to local artist and founder of the Broken Hill Art Exchange Susan Thomas, will be the people she has gathered that form the current team at the BHRAG.

“She’s been wonderful. I’m sad to see
her go. But she’s left behind a great group
of people that she really worked hard to bring on. 

“All the staff and volunteers have a great spirit and are really passionate about pushing for the arts and artists in Broken Hill. 

“And that’s great for the city.”

The Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am.

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