New director of the MRAG – Noella Lopez

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Meet the new Director of the Manning Regional Art Gallery – Noella Lopez. Noella brings a wealth of experience to her new role and plans to build on the gallery’s existing reputation for excellence …


Hi Noella. Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your career background? What brought you to the Manning-Great Lakes area?

As a child born in a seaside resort called Arcachon in the south west of France, I was certain of two things: I would live in Australia and would speak English as a grown-up. I migrated to Australia 20 years ago as a London resident and settled in Sydney, a most gorgeous city. It was a great relief to have found where I was going to live for the rest of my life. Fifteen years ago, friends introduced me to this region, and I loved it instantly. I have been visiting many times a year on holidays and have always hoped to live here one day. So here I am, delighted by this fated sea change in my life.

My experience is diverse and extensive as an executive in arts management, curating exhibitions, marketing and development through my roles at the Australian Museum and Eckersley’s. I am also the founder and curator of Noella Lopez Gallery, an innovative online gallery representing emerging and mid-career artists working in various practices. As an advocate for practising artists, I am on the board of Critical Path, a not for profit choreography research arts organisation: a small incubator of ideas, inspired by artistry, integrity and academia attracting artistic collaborations. As you can see my knowledge and understanding of the arts in general, art practices, the art market, arts policies and funding are both broad and versatile.

What’s your current role at the Manning Regional Art Gallery? What does this role involve on a day-to-day basis?

It is a great privilege to be the new Director of the Manning Valley Art Gallery and to have been offered this opportunity by the Greater Taree City Council. One of my favourite parts of the role is to work with artists and create opportunities for them to meet and educate audiences, enjoy art, have fun and make art accessible for all. We are a small team of dedicated professionals here, so on a daily basis I may focus on issues needing immediate attention or visualise and plan for projects which may come into place in a few years. Tasks can be as diverse as coordinating the logistics of the delivery of an exhibition, in which some artworks weigh more than 100 kg, selecting the next products for the shop, watering the garden, or talking to the media. I love this diversity and find it really stimulating. Unpacking the artworks sent by the Manning Art Prize finalists, discovering these gems and talking point pieces, was absolute bliss!

What have you enjoyed most about experiencing the Manning area so far?

I love this area! Walking on the beach with dolphins swimming nearby or being surrounded by so many birds in the bush are always delightful moments. I saw a bower bird setting up its nest with the blue bits in preparation for the spring season. How special is that! And, the view from the hilly area of Hallidays Point overlooking the entire valley and the ocean in the distance … is just spectacular! It puts a smile on my face every day.

What are your initial impressions of the local art scene?

Having met with a few of the local artists, what emerges is how active our local art scene is and how it inspires initiatives across sections of the community. There is so much to discover, so many artists to meet, stories to share and studios to visit. I can’t wait!



Describe the current exhibition the gallery is showcasing …

The 2015 Manning Art Prize: Naked & Nude is now showing at the Gallery. It is a fantastic exhibition, showcasing great diversity of practices and interpretation. There are 72 finalists, with works including paintings, sculpture, photography and drawing. I strongly recommend it. Come and visit us; you will have great fun and enjoy some art appreciation. And if you still not sure – don’t be shy, feel free to talk to us. The exhibition is on until 25 October – entry is $5 for adults (free for kids). Don’t miss it!

While you’re here, have your say and vote for the People’s Choice Award. The gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, 10am – 4pm and on Sunday 1pm – 4pm.

What are your plans and vision for the gallery moving forward?

The Art Gallery has been instrumental in enabling the artistic focus for the region, whilst supporting local artists. I see my role very much about continuing and strengthening this approach, as well as bringing a fresh view and energy to articulate an exciting programme of events and exhibitions, to support cross collaborations and art practices. Promoting and putting this gallery out there as an art venue of choice recognised nationally by artists and audiences is part of this plan.

I look forward to collaborating with the wonderful supporters of the Gallery to bring this to fruition and whoever wants to engage in a meaningful partnership which would benefit the community at large. The arts in general have proven to be a catalyst for new ideas and for social cohesion, and I feel that artists and the arts can play a positive role with various social issues that can have impact in our community.

Ultimately, my vision would be to see the Manning Valley develop into a destination for creative industries – a growing component of the economy of this country – and for the arts to support tourism, artists’ communities, arts professionals and the local economy.

What upcoming exhibitions do we have to look forward to?

The fascinating exhibition Stars + Stripes: American Art of the 21st Century opens on 30 October. It is a wonderful opportunity to discover contemporary art by artists from New York and Los Angeles not easily accessible to Australian audiences. Drawn from the private collection of Sydney-based Lisa and Danny Goldberg, this exhibition is a vibrant selection of new American art by some of America’s hottest young names.

Where can readers find out more info about the gallery? or

Thanks Noella.

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