Thanks for the comments and questions which require some further …

Comment on Define gallery purpose before picking a site: Bruce Walker by Bruce Walker.

Thanks for the comments and questions which require some further clarification on my part.
Charlie and Alex highlight some apparent contradictions in the paper.
• Is purpose a spectacular building in a wonderful desert landscape, or
• Is purpose a spectacular building in a CBD environment that seems to be difficult to conceptualise?
This apparent contradiction exists because Charlie’s sense of purpose has certain preconditions whereas the Government preconditions around the CBD respond to another more layered context. Both are legitimate views depending on your purpose.
For some people the purpose reflected in their support of the Anzac Hill site is as simple as their ability to have a sandwich on the unfenced lawns in front of the NAAG through to support because it will result in new football facilities or they suspect it will improve visitation in the Todd Mall. In general, the support that is publicly declared is driven by considerations on the site and how individuals may benefit rather than the purpose of the NAAG. Hence the confusion – the cart is before the horse.
My intention has not been to tout for two sites as Alex suggests but to demonstrate that even within the CBD related purpose there is more than one potential site (I say two but there are no doubt more). This statement is not made to curtail Aboriginal discussion about other sites that they might feel are more culturally appropriate, it is merely acknowledging government’s current view that to achieve the government’s purpose the NAAG needs to be in the CBD.
And to be clear about Alex’s point I am not talking about the Uniting Church blocks and I am not arguing for cricket to return to the village green at Anzac Oval and I am no longer involved in CAT and the DK Precinct.
I also would contend that if a “reset” was possible it would most likely only be successful if people had a chance to consider options and clarify their thinking around a number of sites. However, having said that the clear intention of the paper was to not talk about the site related discussions but for people to know that there were other options if they have a chance to better define and align the purpose.
It is my understanding that the Aboriginal group who have been pursuing the concept of an Aboriginal Cultural Centre have conducted extensive negotiations with first nations groups nationally and have some agreement that a national centre should be in Alice Springs. Somehow they need to be able to bring this experience to a point of negotiation about overall purpose given the contention that art and culture are inseparable. One site, one centre seems to be the general consensus.
In searching for alignment of purpose it might be useful to ask the question who are we building this for, and who do we anticipate will pay to visit and go through the facility over the next 50 years.
Is this just another attraction in Alice Springs like the Desert Park, Telegraph Station or Araluen? Is it a destination along the Aboriginal Art Trail? Is it one of a number of investments in repositioning Alice Springs as the nations Inland capital? Different purposes lead to different solutions.
The paper on purpose was an attempt to tease apart the various purposes that seemed to be reflected in the community consultations. My process started talking with Aboriginal people and grew to include people and organisations of long standing in Alice Springs.
If Government and business are saying the NAAG has to be in the CBD to maximise economic benefit and co-investment potential then a consequence of that purpose is that investment south of the Gap or at the Desert Park does not meet that purpose. (Logic. not opinion.)
If Aboriginal and other interests argue for south of The Gap and the Desert Park for different cultural purposes then that is their right to assert that position. (Opinion.)
The question then is whether it is possible to negotiate a single purpose that inspires all. Will government make concessions and spend money on a facility south of The Gap or at the Desert Park or will Aboriginal people make concessions around the government’s preferred CBD option or an alternative CBD option?
In either case can the community align behind a common purpose? Is there a way forward that can unite the community?
For the sake of the analysis let us assume the NAAG will attract 500,000 people per year to Alice Springs. While most galleries nationally have free entry let us assume that visitors pay $20 to enter the gallery. On my rough estimate we would end up in a break-even situation at best where revenue equaled the cost of operation if every visitor went there. This analysis is not site specific.
The real return for this government led investment has to come from the co-investment from the private sector into the community. In my mind a further part of the purpose has to be to position the NAAG where co-investment might occur at a scale that validates the initial government investment. Outside of the CBD of Alice Springs or the Yulara Resort it is difficult to see where this could be achieved. (Again more logic than opinion.) This will be a challenge even for the preferred site.
The only assertion I would make is that even if we as a community can agree a unified purpose, if an image of the final structure does not leap off a tourism webpage saying “This is a world class must see” then we are missing a significant opportunity. It is hard to see the business case stacking up without the “Wow” factor.
This project is a real test of Boundless Possible.

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