The New England Regional Art Museum will be able to refurbish its cafe and start an education program, thanks to two sizeable donations.
Bruce and Rose McCarthy donated $100,000 to redevelop the gallery's cafe, which, NERAM director Rachael Parsons said, needs a facelift to be more welcoming and enjoyable.
"We have wanted to work on the cafe; we can see the need for it; but we have not had the funding to do so until now," Ms Parsons said.
"A great cafe in combination with a great museum creates a destination, supports the commercial viability of our whole operation, and provides a better experience for our visitors."
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The McCarthys would like to see the cafe's social aspects integrated with the gallery's artistic ones.
They hope the cafe - like the Art Gallery of NSW's eatery - will once again be somewhere people can sit, talk, have a meal, coffee, or a glass of wine, and contemplate what they've seen.
They also hope casual cafe-goers will visit the gallery as an afterthought, and become inspired.
"We're missing that now," Mr McCarthy said. "In the past, the cafe and restaurant have been really good. It hasn't necessarily been viable, and there are some issues."
The McCarthys have been involved with the gallery for a long time. Mrs McCarthy volunteers there on Saturday afternoon, manning the front desk, and guiding people through the exhibitions.
"In our opinion, this gallery is unique in Australia, and has all the components to be a central attraction for the art community," Mr McCarthy said.
People come from across the country to see the Hinton collection, from whose collection NERAM could produce a new exhibit each month.
Moreover, the location, Mr McCarthy said, is great; there are no problems with parking; it's quiet; one doesn't get bothered; and one can take one's time in the cafe and gallery.
Mr Tim Fairfax AC, Queensland philanthropist and pastoralist, and his wife Gina have made a significant donation to fund an extended education program.
"Education is an important part of our current program at NERAM, but is also an area that we have wanted to grow," Ms Parsons said.
The gallery will hire an education officer to develop school programs over the next 18 months. Students will be able to visit the gallery, while an outreach program will bring the museum to remote schools and communities.
The Fairfaxes have been major philanthropic supporters of the arts, education, and community initiatives, with a focus on regional communities.
Ms Parsons thanked the McCarthys and Fairfaxes for their generosity towards the museum.
"These amazing personal donations will have immense impact for NERAM," she said. "So much of what we do is supported by private donations from our community and supporters. We appreciate it, and extend our sincere thanks."
At the launch of the winter season on Friday, Ms Parsons called on the community to donate to their annual appeal.
This year, the gallery wants to grow the NERAM Foundation to be their main provider of annual funding.
Ms Parsons hopes the Foundation will ensure the stability NERAM needs to provide meaningful and outstanding cultural experiences; grow its capacity and impact within the region; and plan future developments.
"Running a museum is a complex and at times challenging endeavour," Ms Parsons said. "One of the key challenges we face is with regards to resources and funding."
New England Regional Art Museum Ltd is a not-for-profit organisation that receives funding from the Armidale Regional Council, Create NSW and the Margaret Olley Art Trust. Donations to New England Regional Art Museum are tax-deductible.
To find out more about donating to the 2019 NERAM Annual Appeal and the Howard Hinton Collection, visit: https://www.neram.com.au/annual-appeal-2019/