A group set up to fight for better funding for Auckland Art Gallery will go ahead with a rally this week even though Mayor Phil Goff has proposed to boost funding to the institution by about $2 million a year.
The mayor's recommendation will be considered as part of the council's 10-year budget (2018-2028). This is being consulted on with the public in March and will be agreed upon in May this year.
Save Our Gallery originally planned the Friday lunchtime gathering to draw further attention to the gallery's financial woes and ask Aucklanders to sign a scroll indicating that the 125-year-old institution is important to them and the region.
Goff's announcement means the event will be more celebratory, recognising the proposed funding boost and thanking the mayor for it. However, signatures will still be collected urging Auckland councillors to vote in favour of Goff's proposal and highlighting the need for the gallery to be adequately funded from here on in.
Arts patron Sue Gardiner, one of the founding members of Save Our Gallery, says the funding boost is still a proposal only and the council needs to know support for Auckland Art Gallery is widespread because Aucklanders see it as a significant part of the cultural life of their region.
"We want to ensure that the gallery is still there, growing and responding, in another 125 years. There's a bigger conversation to be had about the future structure and governance of the gallery."
Save our Gallery was established late last year to get Auckland Council to at least restore the gallery's funding to 2011/12 levels when it had an annual operating budget of $9.2m. That's when the gallery re-opened after a $121m upgrade which increased exhibition space by 50 per cent.
But, despite wide acclaim, including winning a major international architecture award and increases in visitor numbers, the gallery's funding was reduced every successive year. In 2017/18, its operating budget was just $6.8m leading to a financial crisis.
Faced with funding shortages, the gallery considered shutting for up to two days a week but has made cost savings to remain open every day except Christmas. It has started to charge international visitors an admission fee.
Save Our Gallery has involved a high-profile social media campaign. Aucklanders are asked to post selfies on social media, holding up signs using the slogan pART for messages like pART of our Identity, pART of Auckland and pART of Me. Billboards have also gone up around the city highlighting the funding crisis.
In a statement earlier this month, Goff said the council was short of funding and the first priority had to be infrastructure to address congestion, poor water quality and the housing shortage.
"However, we cannot neglect the things which also make our city great to live in," he said.
"I asked Auckland Art Gallery to make changes that would allow it to raise more revenue for itself. The gallery has agreed to do this and the $20 charge for international visitors could raise over a million dollars a year when it settles in."
Goff said about 60 per cent of visitors to the gallery are international visitors and he doesn't expect them to be subsidised by Auckland residents and ratepayers.
He said Auckland Art Gallery is now operating in line with what most art institutes around the world do and what has been operating in the Auckland Museum for several years.
"I've talked to a number of councillors who tell me they support increased funding for the gallery. If the council adopts my proposal, this will go a long way to help ensure the gallery can be what it needs to be for Auckland.
"Auckland needs the art gallery to thrive and add vibrancy to it for us to be considered a world-class city. Its buildings are among the most beautiful in the city and its permanent collection and exhibitions are world class."
Funding for the Auckland Art Gallery is provided by the council through its Regional Facilities Auckland organisation.