Cultural ambassadors ready to take Victoria to the world

05 September 2022

Shepparton Art Museum opened its doors in November 2021, and is home to a stunning collection.

Art can tell us so much about ourselves. We pour our hopes, our fears, our dreams into art. We use it to communicate with ech other, and to create a shared understanding of the world around us.

It makes sense then, that we can use art to share important stories with the rest of the world.

Think of it as cultural ambassadorship. That's certainly the goal for the team at the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) and Kaiela Arts.

outside of building with people walking around

"Shepparton sits on Yorta Yorta lands, within the largest First Nations community in Victoria. So, we have a very proud heritage and history to build on, and important stories to tell."  Melinda Martin, CEO of SAM

A cultural library

The award-winning building, which opened its doors in November 2021, is home to a stunning collection.

From the First Nations artworks donated by Carrillo and Ziyin Gantner, to the most significant collection of historic and contemporary Australian ceramics in regional Australia, SAM is well placed to guide visitors on a cultural journey.

"Shepparton sits on Yorta Yorta lands, within the largest First Nations community in Victoria," said Melinda Martin, CEO of SAM.

"So, we have a very proud heritage and history to build on, and important stories to tell," she added.

Belinda Briggs, SAM Curator - Indigenous, sees the potential for SAM to operate as a cultural library.

"I think it could be like the local library, you know, where you've got books on the shelves that are ready for you to select and engage with."

"Here, it will be the same with artworks," said Belinda.

Global appeal

Belinda, who is also a board member and vice-president of Kaiela Arts, an Aboriginal art centre co-located in the SAM building, is confident that the stories told there will resonate with all visitors.

“Kaiela Arts comes from a long line of continuing the practice of storytelling and keeping ourselves connected, in that way, to each other and to Country, and making sure future generations know where they come from,” she said.

"It is through the interpretation and sharing of the stories in our artworks that Kaiela Arts and SAM are able to generate programming that is centred around local places and people.”

“But, we can do it in a way that connects with universal themes that people from around the world can identify with," she added.

Melinda Martin also sees the potential for SAM to become a global destination.

"We know that international visitors have an incredible love of First Nations artwork," said Melinda.

"We are going to be well placed to help them, and visitors from around Australia, to engage with our First Nations culture."

"They are going to come away inspired," she added.

One of the ways in which Melinda Martin is planning to broaden SAM's appeal is by offering multi-lingual tours, so visitors can experience the museum in their preferred language.

"We want everyone to feel that they belong, and that their voices matter in our space," said Melinda.

Two women
Left: Belinda Briggs, Shepparton Art Museum Curator - Indigenous. Right: Melinda Martin, CEO of Shepparton Art Museum. Photos: ©Cam Matheson

Opportunities abound

With regional Victoria set to stand on the world stage during the 2026 Commonwealth Games, SAM has an incredible opportunity to be a major cultural ambassador for the state.

"We now have this amazing facility to generate cultural conversations," said Belinda Briggs.

"And what better way to approach those conversations, than creatively?"

Construction of the Shepparton Art Museum was supported by $12.5 million from the Victorian Government.

The project was delivered in partnership with the Commonwealth Government, City of Greater Shepparton, and philanthropic partners.