2019 is a big year for the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.
The redevelopment is scheduled to start and the old building on the hill will be a hive of activity as it is strengthened and restored and the new wing named for Sir Archie Taiaroa is built to the rear.
We look forward to it becoming a living institution for our whole community to access and enjoy as well as an iconic heritage building and tourist attraction – and a treasure house for the remarkable collection.
In October 2017, the $10 million in central government funding was confirmed by Jacinda Ardern in her role as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and this in turn triggered the release of other significant funds worth millions.
Consequently the redevelopment moved into preparing for construction.
This next stage is full of milestones where the design, processes, costs, partners and outcomes of the project are all weighed, checked, balanced and reviewed.
A Sarjeant Gallery redevelopment director role has been created and an appointment has been made (announcements about that role are coming soon) and this role, supported by a team, will shepherd through this project – which is in fact the largest of its kind in motion in New Zealand at present.
The necessary specialist consultants for the redevelopment have been engaged and they bring considerable international heft and experience in delivering large-scale international construction projects.
Their expertise spans structural engineering, geotechnical considerations, building services, fire, electrical, quantity surveying and design.
Warren & Mahoney are the architects behind the plan for the redevelopment, which is in the discovery phase – which is when every element of the design is transformed into a detailed plan that a major construction contractor can tender to and then build from.
This process involves consulting, testing and tweaking the existing plan against the multitude of tasks the building needs to perform.
The timeline puts a construction date shortly after the tendering process is complete and the main construction partner appointed. This date now sits at September 2019.
Late last year Friends of the Gallery and members of the Thousand Stars programme heard a redevelopment update from mayor Hamish McDouall who spoke about the economic prosperity the project will bring to Whanganui in the long and short term and the value and importance the gallery has to Whanganui.
"As we undertake this project, we'll bring employers and expertise to Whanganui. They'll invest in our community, providing jobs and staying in our city for months at a time. It will bring all the activity and flow of economic activity that comes with a large-scale construction job," he said.
"On completion it will certainly be one of the jewels in our crown, continuing to be a pillar of the arts in our region and attracting and growing creativity and industry in our city. It will be a tourism driver and a selling point for Whanganui as a destination."
Also in September, we will celebrate the 100th year of the Sarjeant Gallery which opened to the public for the first time on September 6, 1919 after a two-year build, to young Donald Hosie's winning design.
We are indebted to Henry Sarjeant, the Sarjeant's founding benefactor, and the £32,000 bequest he left to Whanganui in 1912 for the building of a gallery "as a means of inspiration for ourselves and those who come after us".
The bequest funded the building of the Sarjeant and also began the Sarjeant collection, which has grown over the past century to become one of the most significant in New Zealand. It now contains more than 8000 international and New Zealand artworks and spans 400 years of art history.
So in many ways, this year is an incredibly significant stepping stone into the future for the Sarjeant Gallery and the Sarjeant collection.
We have a lot to be grateful for and a lot to look forward to.