Introduction

In 2001 the Eastern Southland Gallery negotiated the successful purchase of a significant Gore landmark, the former East Gore Presbyterian Church and Hall. Designed by prominent New Zealand architect RA Lawson, the 1881 church building is the only surviving example of his wooden structures and has been accorded New Zealand Historic Places Trust Category II registration. The adjoining hall building is a much later 1960's addition.

The purchase of this complex, on terraced land adjacent to the Mataura River, was generously supported by the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland in light of the building's potential public use.

Further good fortune was to gravitate the Gallery's way in the form of a national visual arts institution. Having visited the site, Fans Baetens and Magda van Gils of Auckland's Muka Studio graciously offered to gift their considerable plant and equipment to the Gallery for the purpose of establishing a non-profit lithographic studio for visiting artists.

The Muka holdings include several small lithographic presses, along with a 7.5 ton, 135 year old French press, which is one of only three left operating in the world. Also included in the gift are a priceless collection of lithographic stones and the printmaking equipment used by the many major national and international artists who have worked with Muka over the last 25 years. Most notable of the New Zealand artists to use this facility are Dick Frizzell, Ralph Hotere, Grahame Sydney, Pat Hanly, Robin White, Marilynn Webb, Tony Fomison and Gretchen Albrecht.

With the successful completion of the John Money Wing and Ralph Hotere Gallery, the Eastern Southland Gallery is in the process of raising funds to refurbish both buildings and create a complementary art centre of regional and national significance.