Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser believes the city's redeveloped art gallery will show the area's attractions are about more than water.
The expanded gallery, renamed the Museum of Art and Culture (MAC), is to be officially opened tonight by NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin and Cr Fraser.
The mayor said the gallery would help display the city's cultural side and showcase local artistic talent.
"We're more than a fantastic lake and beautiful beaches," Cr Fraser said.
The $2.3 million redevelopment and expansion of the gallery on the headland at Booragul would provide more space for exhibitions and collection storage.
Director Debbie Abraham said there was about 100 square metres of additional floor space, allowing for three exhibitions simultaneously, rather than two.
"We want to have big curated and touring exhibitions, we want to have Aboriginal exhibitions, we want to have Aboriginal work here all the time," Ms Abraham said.
The director said the gallery's commitment to Aboriginal art and the community was built into MAC, with a dedicated program called "yapang", which was an Awabakal word meaning "pathway".
To launch the new space, the gallery is holding three exhibitions - "us", "be", and "we".
"Us", displays a range of contemporary local and international artists, and "be" highlights Australian art given to the gallery through two bequests. That exhibition includes paintings by the lake's best-known artist, William Dobell, along with works by Robert Dickerson, Margaret Olley and John Coburn.
"We" features the work of contemporary Aboriginal artists, including Jasmine Miikika Craciun's installation highlighting the degradation of the Darling River, titled Empty Water Vessels.
Ms Craciun said it was "very special" to be part of the exhibition in the new space, as it allowed her to share the story she was telling through her art with the other works.
"It's nice to have these relationships all in one place, to see the stories together is really nice," she said.
In addition to the new gallery space, the MAC has an outdoor terrace, a lounge area to display the work of Lake Macquarie artists, a larger shop, and a reconfigured entrance.
Councillor Fraser said she believed the redevelopment of the building, which was originally opened in 2001, had made the gallery more "welcoming and warm".
"This one will encourage people to come inside," Cr Fraser said.
The new building also has a cafe overlooking the sculpture park and lake. The cafe was a late addition, after Awaba House, which neighbours the gallery, was gutted by fire in August.
The historical landmark had housed a restaurant. The gutted building is now behind artistically decorated hoardings, while the council consults with the community about what to do with Awaba House.
Ms Abraham said it was necessary to install a cafe, as MAC was a "destination venue" for visitors.
"They can come and look in there, they can come and look at the sculpture park, they can look at the artworks on the Awaba House hoarding - and they can shop to their heart's content," Ms Abraham said.
Read more about MAC in tomorrow's Weekender.
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