Saving the Sarjeant essential

By Russell Bell

1 comment

If I can digress this week, I'd like to talk about the Sarjeant Gallery. Much has been written and commented on in relation to the building, its earthquake-prone nature, its redevelopment and funding said redevelopment. Some commentary has been positive and other examples of it negative.

I'm puzzled at the negativity in this case because the Sarjeant, regardless of whether you like art or not, is an iconic building in our city and the centrepiece of the Queen's Park cultural hub. It is up there with other iconic buildings in our small and young country which are much more than just bricks and mortar.

It would be a crying shame for future generations if we walked away from the building and said it was "too hard" to refurbish and maintain for future generations.

Can you imagine an empty plot of land with a plaque saying "here once stood the Sarjeant Art Gallery" followed by "we thought at the time footpaths and pipes were more important".

Unthinkable. Which is why the initiative to fundraise is such an important one and signals to the Government - who possibly could fund some of the redevelopment - that we are committed to saving this material asset.

We have a "family friendly" strategy and, just as swimming pools and parks are important in bringing validity to the strategy and promoting the city to outsiders, so too is the recognition of the importance of the arts as a vital component that contributes materially to quality of life.

The building is also used in websites and marketing collateral promoting the city so, if we were not to commit to its future, the imagery would carry a negative which would diminish the effectiveness of the intended message.

As a local business, Zenith Solutions will contribute to the fund. Like many, I don't visit the Sarjeant every day. However, I do have many memories of it, both as a child and adult, and I gained a new appreciation of art every time I visited - I know that to be true. I want the building to be there for my children and for them to experience it like I have. I want them to have a venue to appreciate art that is magnificent and does the works justice.

I also want them to have the opportunity to develop their already budding passion for art via venues like the Wanganui Community Art Centre and access to artists. Without the Sarjeant, there is risk that these avenues may not be as strong as they are today.

If you haven't visited the gallery lately, do so. The risk of an earthquake is the same as it was yesterday, the day before that and before the Christchurch earthquakes. Go in there and take a look at its architecture, its personality and the way in which it is designed to allow the art to speak. This is no ordinary building, built under no ordinary circumstances, and its connection to our past and present is strong.

So too should it be for the building's and our future.

Zenith Solutions is a Wanganui-based management consulting practice. It specialises in providing strategic planning, business process improvement and financial management services. Contact or phone 021-244-2421.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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