The Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery has been a cultural fixture in the Lake Mac community since its establishment in 1980. Located right on the shores of the lake, it’s long been renowned for its high-quality programming, showcasing contemporary visual arts, craft and design. But as its fortieth anniversary nears, the venue is moving into its next phase with a new look, new exhibitions and a new name – MAC: Museum of Art and Culture yapang.
The gallery closed its doors in April this year to undergo a seven-month-long, $2.3 million transformation. Support from the State Government’s Regional Cultural Fund enabled Lake Macquarie City Council to enact its vision for this stage of the venue’s development, which had been in talks for several years. “We knew this was something we needed – this was the next phase in improving the infrastructure of the building,” says Jacqui Hemsley, LMCC’s Manager of Arts, Culture and Tourism.
The makeover primarily involved the expansion of the collection storage space, which has now been doubled, as well as extension of the gallery space. Realignment of the entry point has also opened up the venue, with more decking space and further interaction with the sculpture park outside. “It’s so significant to the future of the gallery because we were running out of space with collection stores,” Jacqui explains.
“And exhibitions and visitor experiences have changed over time. Shows are much bigger; they’ve got much more technology, and installations are quite large now.”
A café operator will also take up residence in the new space, so visitors will be able to enjoy food, coffee and even a glass of wine on-site. But expansions and additions to its various spaces aren’t the only upgrades the gallery has received. “There’s a lot of innovative elements that we’ve added to the space to value-add with the size increase,” Jacqui explains.
These include a larger emerging exhibition space in the main foyer, enabling MAC to showcase local contemporary artists, as well as the introduction of an annual acquisition award and Indigenous contemporary art awards. “We’ll have artists that will celebrate the lake and our environment and what’s unique about Lake Macquarie, and then in alternative years it will be Indigenous awards,” Jacqui says. “A really significant and important direction the gallery is committed to is celebrating our Awabakal and contemporary Aboriginal culture.”
This celebration is also reflected in the venue’s new name. The addition of the Aboriginal word yapang (meaning path or journey) solidifies the gallery’s ongoing commitment to Indigenous art and artists. Overall, the rebranding of the venue as a cultural destination has been a significant aspect of the project. “The name change from the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery to the Museum of Art and Culture will transform and create a lot more awareness of the arts in Lake Macquarie nationally,” says Jacqui.
The venue was officially reopened as MAC yapang towards the end of November with a weekend of celebratory events, including guided exhibition tours, outdoor community art projects, markets, workshops and live music. The relaunch was also marked by the unveiling of MAC’s three opening exhibitions: us. universal stories, we. wiyelliko, and be. (your collection) be remembered. For the first time, the venue has the space to present not one, not two, but three simultaneous exhibitions that contrast and complement one another, presenting a portrait of the Lake Macquarie and wider Australian cultural community.
us. features contemporary works that examine, interpret and critique a range of social issues, from climate change to education, while we. reflects MAC’s philosophy of celebrating the area’s Indigenous artists and cultural heritage through a range of works by Aboriginal contemporary artists. Finally, be. celebrates MAC’s collection, and acknowledges the generosity of the individuals who have contributed to it through bequests and gifts. “People will be able to see Dobells; they’ll be able to see works that we have in the collection that perhaps we haven’t been able to showcase before in one space,” Jacqui explains. “These are some really significant national artists that have been curated very nicely to celebrate our collections, what makes us a community in Lake Macquarie, and the wider society.”
So apart from this opening trio, what’s in store for MAC in future? The 2020 line-up will include more exciting exhibitions of contemporary Aboriginal art; a touring collection from South Australia’s JamFactory featuring artworks and sculptures made from the medium of concrete; works by contemporary Chinese artist Guan Wei; a dance installation; and a ‘real-scale, immersive, house-like environment’, to name just a few. Plus, word has it that it may once again be MAC’s turn to host the Archibald Prize in 2021 – stay tuned for details on that next year.
The final word? MAC is more than just a gallery. It’s an important point of connection for the local creative community, and a real destination for both locals and visitors from outside the region. “If you’ve been to the gallery at Lake Mac, think about coming again. MAC really does offer a different experience, and it’s worth coming back,” Jacqui says. “It is your gallery – it’s a space that we really want to be engaged, and a place that you feel proud of, that interests and really excites you. It’s a space for Lake Mac.”
Visit MAC yapang at its beautiful lakeside location on First Street, Booragul, and find more information at mac.lakemac.com.au or by calling Visitor Services on 02 4921 0382.
Until 9 February 2020
Nicole Chaffey – The Killing Song 2018, oxides, ink, paper, earthenware, installation dimensions variable.
Cultural Collections Lake Macquarie ©Nicole Chaffey.