End of the peer for ‘amazing’ riverside art exhibition council ‘wouldn’t back’

Artist Bruce Webb, centre, came with friends and relatives to view his and other artists’ work at the the Art at Burnley Harbour exhibition under Citylink freeway at Burnley. Photo: Simon Schluter Freeway of art: the annual Art at Burnley Harbour exhibition, on under the Citylink freeway and beside the Yarra River at Burnley, is to close due to lack of funds. Photo: Simon Schluter

A popular annual art exhibition held under the Citylink freeway is to fold, with organisers blasting an alleged lack of support from the City of Yarra.

Increased security costs and difficulty finding $6000 to run the event mean the 2016 Art at Burnley Harbour, which opened on Thursday and runs until Sunday beside the Yarra River, will be the last.

Robert Lee, president of the Contemporary Art Society of Victoria that runs the free, not for profit event, said he is bitter at its demise.

He said it had supported hundreds of artists since it opened in 2004, and given the public access to affordable art.

He called on fans to view the “wonderful hidden gem” while they still could.

He said aside from grants of $3000 and $3500 in its first two years, Yarra council had rejected subsequent applications for financial aid.

He said the council had declined to place Art at Burnley Harbour flyers at libraries and town halls, and wouldn’t post it on its social media, saying it would only promote council-run, or funded, events.

The volunteer-run exhibition stretches for 300 metres beside the Capital City bicycle trail, and is accessible off Mary Street, Burnley.

Customer Helen Kelly, of Kew, who came early on Thursday to bargain-hunt, said the closure was “awful”.

She said last year she paid $250 for a Graham Duell stone sculpture of a whale’s tail that is now a cherished part of her garden.

“Why buy a print when you can come here and get an original painting?” she said. “It’s amazing art, available to everyone, that’s what’s beautiful about it.”

Artist Emily Levin, of Malvern, said she is “devastated” at the closure, saying selling a piece was an incentive to keep painting. The display was “an outlet to exhibit, to show our talent. It’s therapy for a lot of us, an expression of who we are.”

Artist Bruce Webb, of Eltham, was thrilled that his 1.2m welded steel abstract sculpture Yellow Totem sold for $350, hours after the exhibition opened on Thursday.

Mr Webb, 56, who has two sculptures and two abstract paintings in the exhibition, is getting back in to art after decades running a wedding reception venue and doesn’t presently exhibit in galleries.

Yarra Mayor Amanda Stone said: “We are sad to hear that the Art at Burnley Harbour exhibition will not be continuing”, but said organisers had not applied for a council grant in the past two years.

She said council spent more than $500,000 annually on arts and cultural projects. It would love to support all programs requesting, funding but it was highly competitive.

Cr Stone said community programs not funded by Council can be listed on Yarra’s Community Noticeboard website.

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