Gallery’s fate in the balance

Walker Street Gallery.

By Casey Neill

A new central Dandenong arts centre could render Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre obsolete.
Greater Dandenong Council is yet to set the centre’s fate in stone, but talk in the community about possible future uses for the site at Walker and Robinson streets has already started.
In August, the council agreed to buy the former masonic hall at 5 Mason Street from the Urban Renewal Authority Victoria, with plans to renovate and refurbish the heritage building to create a new regional arts centre.
Only a block away is the Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre – “the City of Greater Dandenong’s home of the arts” according to the council’s website – which hosts exhibitions and events throughout the year.
“It celebrates and enhances our great city with its diverse range of exhibitions, artist talks and monthly openings,” the website said.
The centre also includes a performing arts theatre and meeting rooms available for public hire.
Questions have been raised about its future and what would become of the central site if it’s closed.
One Journal reader suggested a park would be a fitting use, with the temporary Pop-Up Park on Foster Street to make way for development.
Community services director Mark Doubleday said the council had committed funds in the current financial year for initial design work on the Masonic Hall project.
“Once complete, the draft designs will be reviewed by the council and a timeframe for developing the venue will be decided,” he said.
“The Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre is operational and will remain so until the council determines a future plan about the Masonic Hall that may involve relocating the gallery to this site.”
Mr Doubleday said that when the council had decided if Walker Street Gallery was to be relocated, then there would be consideration about the future of the Walker Street property.
“At this stage there is no such consideration,” he said.
Walker Street Gallery is also home to non-profit art engagement group Connection Arts Centre, previously known as Connection Gallery.
“Connections Gallery is currently leasing space within the Walker Street Gallery, and there is no decision made about the Walker Street Gallery that would change this,” Mr Doubleday said.