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Liberals and Greens join forces in the war upon the print makers

By johnboy 27 October 2011 32

Minister for the Arts, Joy Burchis seething after the Liberals and Greens joined forces in the Assembly to stymie the long planned handover of the Kingston Fitters’ Workshop to Megalo Print Studio.

Ms Burch said it was appalling the Greens and Liberals colluded today to suspend work indefinitely on the Fitters? Workshop for Megalo to move in, as the move had now put the organisation?s future in jeopardy.

“The Government has spoken to Megalo staff today and they are devastated by what the Liberals and Greens have done,” Ms Burch said.

“Their 2012 program, which they had prepared in good faith, is now in tatters because of the political opportunism of the Greens and Liberals. It is clear the only ones looking out for Megalo in this debate is the ACT Government.”

Ms Burch said Megalo Chief Executive Alison Alder had written to Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur and leader Meredith Hunter imploring the Greens not to support Mrs Dunne?s motion, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Ms Alder wrote yesterday to the Greens saying:

“I am extremely distressed to discover that Mrs Dunne is putting forward a motion in [today’s] Assembly which has the potential to delay the Governments decision regarding the relocation of Megalo to the Fitters Workshop in mid 2012.

“You may not be aware that Megalo programs its activities 18 months in advance. In fact we are soon to go through the selection process for our 2012 international, national and local residency program. If the process of relocation is delayed it will put our programming into disarray, causing loss of income, reputation and instability. These comments also apply to our education and gallery programs.”

Ms Burch said the Greens and Liberals were not being honest with the community by hiding their true motivations behind demands for more “consultation?.

“It is clear that what the Greens and Liberals really want is for the Government to reverse its decision at the expense of Megalo’s future. The Government will now consider its options to ensure that Megalo’s urgent accommodation needs are addressed.”

UPDATE: The Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur is explaining her actions:

The former Chief Minister promised Megalo, an outstanding Canberra community printing organisation, that they could move into the Fitters’ Workshop. Unfortunately this was promised without adequate public or arts community consultation.

“We are seeking to determine the best use of a special Canberra building, for all the Canberra Community,” said Ms Le Couteur, ACT Greens arts spokesperson.

“My amendment ensures that the inquiry thoroughly examines the acoustic qualities of the building and community demand for it.

“The Government has failed to fully evaluate the value of the Fitters’ Workshop to choral and other classical music groups, which has left a huge question hanging. We have now been forced to rectify these shortcomings to ensure that this heritage listed community asset is best utilised.

“Megalo plays an important role in the Canberra visual arts sector and the Greens think that they will be a good fit for the Kingston Arts Precinct. It is unfortunate that they find themselves stuck in the middle of this situation created by the Government’s lack of due process.

“The Government have admitted they failed to consider the acoustic value of the building when it was discovered, and that they instead preferred to plough ahead with their plans.

“The Greens believe that the best use of the site should be examined first, and then the Government should decide who should use it, not the other way around. The committee inquiry is the only way for this to be achieved now, as the Government have refused to do it through normal consultation processes.

“The proposed work on the Fitters’ Workshop has not yet been approved by the planning authority and we do not believe that the Assembly inquiry will delay any outcome for the site. The committee is expected to report in March 2012.

“My amendment also asked that the Government guarantee ongoing Megalo accommodation, no matter what the outcome of the inquiry,” Ms Le Couteur said.

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32 Responses to
Liberals and Greens join forces in the war upon the print makers
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didi 9:20 pm 02 Nov 11

Hey Jack Q,
How poetic and touching!!! I was amazed to see such amount of consideration for the singers.
How come I did not understand the importance of “parking the presses, hanging the aprons, and leaving the ink to dry?”
If all the 350 members doing it at the same time you surely need a massive workshop. WOW!!!
I thought that only the musicians need a big room as they need a place for all the performers and the crowd.
GET REAL! Megalo presses are “parked” in Watson and not all the members can print at once.
Only 1-10-20 members per press? How many presses you have? 5-10-20? Are they all that busy?
Megalo Workshop is sufficient for your activities and you know it.
The Fitters Workshop with its unique acoustics should go to the right people.

I-filed 12:23 pm 30 Oct 11

jackq – appreciate your input – and your letter indicates there’s no reason why Megalo should be occupying the Fitters Workshop and not another suitable space. I think that’s a great step forward, and the ball is now in the ACT Government’s court now, to identify (quickly) land for a purpose-designed and purpose-built Megalo studio in the Kingston Arts Precinct or nearby.

jackQ 1:40 am 30 Oct 11

didi said :

Megalo are whinging about a space when the one they have is more than adequate. Go to Megalo and you will see an empty place with only the people who work there running around. How many professional artists there – none. What does that say about Megalo ? It’s not a place that’s growing or needs to grow. It’s a black hole and we need a better group in the Kingston foreshore that will make a ‘vibrant arts community’ not a drain on taxpayers money.

Didi I am a print maker and Megalo Board member and I am concerned about both the tone and inaccuracy of your post. Megalo only became aware of the motion in the Legislative Assembly late on Wednesday afternoon last week. Below is a copy of the letter I sent to all MLAs last Wednesday evening – it paints a more accurate picture of Megalo’s role in the Canberra arts community and our continuing distress at those who seek to divide our arts community into two camps:

Mrs Vicki Dunne
Member for Ginninderra
Legislative Assembly for the ACT
GPO Box 1020

Dear Mrs Dunne,

Canberra’s 350 print makers are drawing on your support

Many Canberrans love to sing and bring the joy of song to our community. These singers tell our stories, makes us weep and laugh, and remind us of people and places next door or far away… Many Canberrans also love to draw, carve and etch and bring the joy of print to our community. These printers tell our stories, makes us weep and laugh, and remind us of people and places next door or far away….

Each and every day at Megalo Print Studio the eyes and hands of our 350 member printers are crafting a visual feast to share with our neighbours. While our friends who sing are busy rehearsing their tunes, we spend almost 10,000 hours of studio time each year getting our lines just right. or left. or a bit squiggly…

We don’t have choirmasters, but we do have dedicated and talented visual arts staff who guide our hands and coordinate our night and weekend public education, visiting artist and exhibition programs. Our annual audience of exhibition visitors is 3,500 plus.

Singers and audiences are mobile and voices are easily carried between rehearsal hall and from venue to venue. Printing presses are bulky and heavy, and like a grand piano are best finely tuned and left in one place. Paper is delicate and inks can be fussy performers requiring days of quiet solitude to dry and set.

We want the best of times for all Canberrans who sing and print.

But as printers we need a fitting place to hang our aprons and park our presses, and a safe studio space for all our members as we commence our work to prepare a celebratory visual feast for Canberra’s centenary and build a permanent home for the next 100 years of capital printmakers.

Megalo’s members, staff and Board have collaborated and participated through a three year process of consultation, scoping and negotiation with the ACT Government that has led to a decision and funding to relocate Megalo Print Studio and Gallery to the Fitters Workshop at Kingston.

We are now drawing on your support to secure the future of printmaking in Canberra.

Yours sincerely

Jack Quinane
Printmaker and Megalo Board Member

didi 8:00 pm 29 Oct 11

Dymphna said :

Classified said :

I’m not just a printmaker nor am I a Labor voter, and you’ll find that most of the printmakers voted Green in the last election. I bet they won’t now! In fact Megalo’s Artist Director husband stood for the Greens in a regional community very recently. I remember there was a fund raiser for it. And as for the comment about Printmakers being aggressive, it is the choral choir who have been abusive, not the printmakers. The printmakers are a mix of artists and musicians and are very friendly with real practicing musicians, some of whom have come out in public support of Megalo.

Friendly?! Friendly Printmakers?! Friendly to who?!

didi 7:03 pm 29 Oct 11

Good decision by the Greens and the Liberals !!!! Stanhope (the dictator) gave the Fitters Workshop to Megalo without any consultation. In addition to the Fitters Workshop he offered Megalo another property worth millions on the Kingston foreshore (oh woops that’s Stanhope’s secret). Then he quickly resigned the following day. Why he did not resign before he made this decision???

Something is fishy in this decision and the public has the right to know. Megalo are whinging about a space when the one they have is more than adequate. Go to Megalo and you will see an empty place with only the people who work there running around. How many professional artists there – none. What does that say about Megalo ? It’s not a place that’s growing or needs to grow. It’s a black hole and we need a better group in the Kingston foreshore that will make a ‘vibrant arts community’ not a drain on taxpayers money.

I-filed 3:09 pm 29 Oct 11

AJW said :

If Megalo were to fold because of a political stand-off, then we would all be the losers.

Wow that is really upping the ante! There has been no suggestion that Megalo’s existence is in any danger. If an appropriate and legitimate process by the ACT LA decides that Stanhope’s unilateral, favouritist decision should be reversed, and the Fitter’s Workshop thrown open to a decision via due process, that will pose no threat to Megalo. They would of course have their lease extended at Watson, or another building found in the meantime, until the 4 MILLION dollars being made available to them could be applied to another, or purpose-built building. That’s four million dollars of ACT Ratepayers’ largesse Megalo! Be a bit grateful?
Dismantling the corrupt process instigated by Jon Stanhope is unfortunately the only way to go. Megalo chose to take the Stanhope path, and I can’t see that they didn’t know that they were the beneficiaries of a megalomaniac operating outside due process (!). Unfortunately for Megalo, but fortunately for the rest of Canberra, a legitimate process is about to begin. Megalo may still end up with the Fitter’s Workshop and, if so, people should fall in behind that decision.

AJW 2:42 pm 29 Oct 11

As a glass artist I’ve seen the positive impact the Glassworks has had on peoples careers and practice and how it has drawn national and international artists to the region, and how it has grown an audience including an industry with employment and professional oportunites. Keeping an organisation working like this requires an extraordinary amount of work and labour of love. I’d love to see the Kingston precinct grow to support our fantastic facility so that we are not stuck in the precinct on our own for very much longer. I really don’t think its of any value to insult the printmakers or the musicians on this issue. Any real artist who wants to see the visual and performing arts flourish in the region will be behind a bi-partisan approach to the arts sector. I know the good people of Megalo, they support a wide range of practices and people and they have positive intentions. They also have the support of all the local and national visual arts organisations. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion, but as artists we need to stand together on these issues and look for the best outcomes for all. We need to be leaders rather than waiting for the next hand out. For example, Craft Australia is about to fold because the Australia Council funding is no longer available and we have to be proactive to show how much we care. So easily an organisation can disappear, and lack of infrastructure for advocacy has an enormous impact on artists as individuals and as a community. If Megalo were to fold because of a political stand-off, then we would all be the losers.

I-filed 12:43 pm 29 Oct 11

666 referred to a recent statement by Jon Stanhope about the issue – according to the ABC, he said something along the lines of, the musicians attempting to reverse my decision are like dogs cocking a leg and pissing all over the Fitter’s Workshop.

Does anyone have the exact quote, or footage?

Given that it was the ABC who quoted him, it sounds as though Labor have defamed an entire sector, on behalf of Megalo, so Megalo can certainly desist from negative comment if ACT Labor via Mr Stanhope is doing all the spraying for them!

AJW 9:34 am 29 Oct 11

I really think this online discussion is not useful as this issue is complex. The danger here is to divide what is a wonderful arts community we have here in Canberra.

The CEO of Megalo sent out a statement yesterday to all members which might be helpful in reducing any negative reaction. It is also posted on their website.

Dear Members and friends of Megalo

On the 27th October, 2011 the ACT Greens amended and passed a Liberal motion to establish an inquiry into the future use of the Fitters Workshop in the Kingston Arts Precinct. This means that the decision to relocate Megalo to the Fitters Workshop is now under question.
Two key actions are now underway:
1. The Megalo Board is seeking an urgent briefing from the Government on how Megalo should manage its accommodation needs when the current lease at Watson expires in July 2012, including the management of staffing and programs should a significant rental increase occur.
2. The Board is currently working on a strategic and positive campaign to ensure that the ACT Government establishes a permanent home for Megalo and printmaking within the Kingston Arts Precinct.
One positive outcome from the debate within the Assembly yesterday, was the understanding that Megalo needs a permanent home and recognition of Megalo as an organisation of high calibre, worthy of support. These sentiments were echoed repeatedly by members across the Chamber.
The Board requests that members, or friends of Megalo, do not make any partisan or negative comment that may divide the arts community in Canberra.
As usual, Megalo staff, board & members will take a calm, commonsense approach to this issue, reaching what, in the end, we hope will be a positive outcome for another thirty years of printmaking in the ACT.

creative_canberran 11:19 pm 28 Oct 11

Not sure why Megalo think they have some god given right to the place. I have to be harsh here and say good on the Greens and Libs. It’s a beautiful building and frankly I think it would be wasteful to devote it to a single, very much redundant art form. They already have a facility, I don’t see how the higher roof and better acoustics of this building will help them.

I-filed 9:20 pm 28 Oct 11

FreeRange said :

Dear I filed
Just by saying that the ‘tiny Manuka Gallery’ would want to move there shows your complete lack of knowledge concerning the visual arts in Canberra, its functions, audience and needs. This gallery has a long history in Canberra – formally known as the ‘Bitumen river’ and is now run by Canberra Contemporary Arts Space, CCAS which is located in Gorman house. Yes CCAS is also being consulted on the viability of the Kingston foreshore, but as a major organisation it would not want the Fitters workshop, or want to share a space with anyone. How could they? they have back to back exhibitions through out the year, and so does the Manuka space. PERHAPS YOU SHOULD GET YOUR FACT RIGHT before you become yet another mouth yarding off a whole bunch of crap.

I am 1. A Canberra School of Art 4-year Hons graduate, and 2. Have exhibited at CCAS. Your tone is very inappropriate, particularly the YELLING! (And I think you meant “formerly” not “formally”).
Back on topic: I am a visual arts graduate who is siding with the musicians here.
Katie Gallagher was tying herself in knots this morning trying to express “I’m going to make sure the printmakers get the Fitters’ Workshop” while using actual words that would indicate consultation. She introduced the red herring that “It’s only the choristers who want it” – when a broad section of the music fraternity in Canberra are keen to preserve the space.
Very strange, contradictory phone call to 666 from one Jim Cotter, who is apparently a musician but thinks buildings with amazing acoustics are a snap to design and build, or proffered as an alternative for concerts that “any old church will do”. As I referred to before – ask the Opera House whether it’s easy to create a space with good acoustics.
Printmaking is an industrial, messy activity. I wonder whether all those printmakers are being so badtempered because they breathe so much turps? It is known to affect one’s mood …

Jim Jones 3:59 pm 28 Oct 11

Mysteryman said :

Dymphna said :

wow, I think this just goes to show that if you vote for the Greens in the ACT you’ll end up with Liberal party values…. and empty venues! beware the voter in the next election, particularly if you are looking for a strong arts policy because you won’t find one with the Greens or Libs. They just look after the interests of their families and friends by the looks.

Two recently elected minority governments have shown that precisely the opposite is true.


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