The Ballarat International Foto Biennale has cemented its home in the city with the purchase of a landmark Lydiard Street building.
Funded by generous philanthropy, the Foto Biennale has bought the former Union Bank premises near the corner of Sturt Street as a permanent exhibition space and offices. It was previously using tenanted rooms upstairs at the Ballarat Mining Exchange.
The historic building, adjacent to Royal Craig’s Hotel and opposite Her Majesty’s Theatre, was designed by Leonard Terry in 1863 as the home of the Union Bank, replacing an earlier, smaller version. More recently it has housed the Hospital Benefits Association (HBA) and CBS Financial. Following significant restoration works it will become The National Centre for Photography.
Director of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale Fiona Sweet says the revitalisation of Lydiard Street with the National Centre for Photography will enable visitors to Ballarat to have an ‘immersive arts experience’.
“Lydiard Street will be a magnet for tourism in Ballarat, Ms Sweet said.
“The National Centre for Photography increases the scope of creative offerings in the area while complementing the regionally significant Art Gallery of Ballarat and the contemporary Post Office Gallery. We are thrilled to be part of the re-activation of such a significant street.”
Ms Sweet said The National Centre for Photography will provide a secure home for the biennale and will have permanent and temporary collections, a photobook library, a professional dark room, an artist-in-residence accommodation and educational workshops.
“The gallery may be a long time in its development. We’ve had some incredible benefactors who have contributed towards the purchase of the building - but we are looking for more founding members to be part of its history.”
Last year’s Foto Biennale displayed exhibitions across more than 100 buildings and laneways, and attracted a record audience of 26,000 people. In its four-week period, the festival had an economic benefit of $3.89 million to the City of Ballarat.