National Exhibitions Touring Support (NETS) Victoria is the peak body for touring visual culture in the state of Victoria. NETS Victoria collaborates with art galleries, cultural institutions, artists and curators to co-create and co-present outstanding exhibitions and projects that are supported by engaging high quality publications and public and learning programs, which promote increased audience participation and educational engagement with contemporary art across regional Victoria.
NETS Victoria incubates new projects across the state through the provision of seed funding the Exhibition Development Fund grants program. We provide regional galleries with best practice support services for our touring programs, free professional touring advice and support, and professional development opportunities for their staff. Through our program we build professional and community networks, fostering dialogue between our artists and curators and regional audiences and art practitioners.
Organisational and project support is received from the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, through the Federal Government’s arts funding body the Australia Council for the Arts and via the Visions of Australia program from the Ministry for the Arts. As a Registered Cultural Organisation NETS Victoria also seeks public donations and bequests to support its artistic program and access initiatives.
NETS Victoria was established in 1985 as an initiative of the Australia Council to establish a national network of visual arts touring organisations – the National Exhibitions Touring Support Australia program. NETS Victoria’s founding principles were to ‘encourage greater public access to the visual arts and crafts, Aboriginal Arts and Design, to increase the exposure of metropolitan and regionally-based artists and to stimulate cooperation and professional development among all public galleries’ (A report by the Visual Arts/Craft Board of the Australia Council July 1993). In the first five years the Victorian NETS officer, was employed under the auspices of the Victorian Ministry for the Arts alongside a state registrar and conservator, worked with an established network of Victorian regional galleries to coordinate the planning of their exhibitions programs within Victoria, to facilitate intra-state touring and to provide a national network for exhibition development cooperation at the state and regional level. During this time NETS Victoria brokered tours, provided EDF grants, developed travel itineraries and provided expertise and guidance to regional gallery staff.
On the invitation of James Mollison AO, then the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, NETS Victoria established an office within the walls of the NGV in 1991, receiving significant in-kind support which continues to be vital to the organisation. Concurrently under the leadership of the Executive Officer Sara Kelly, NETS Victoria began to take a more proactive role in the creation and promotion of touring contemporary art exhibitions with its program expanding from a single exhibition to 6 venues in 1989, to 4 exhibitions to 10 venues in 1991.
Audience engagement was emphasised from 1994 with a significant increase in education programs and other publications delivered in support of the touring exhibitions. NETS Victoria delivered the Regional Artist and Craftsperson in Residency program in 1994 and also published its Travelling Exhibitions Handbook.
For the next five years the touring program continued to expand with 196 presentations of 34 touring exhibitions to regional and national audiences through the decade. While audience data is very limited for this period, three projects give some insight into the nature, reach and impact of exhibitions toured in this period:
- The Baillieu Myer Collection from Heide Museum of Modern Art was presented by 5 regional galleries to audiences exceeding 11,000;
- Furnish, an exhibition from the Bendigo Art Gallery, toured to 5 regional galleries and audiences totalling 9,500;
- The Alan Davie exhibition toured to 7 galleries in regional Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales and attracted audiences in excess of 14,000.
NETS Victoria became an Incorporated Association in 1999 with a new governance structure and by 2002 was rebranded and relaunched with a renewed mandate to improve the quality of the exhibition program and increase its regional reach and audience engagement. A new website was launched and a second edition of its Travelling Exhibitions Handbook was published. By 2005, 9 exhibitions had toured to 55 locations and attracted audiences of over 325,000.
In 2006 communications resources were increased, consolidating the organisation’s profile and support for the regional galleries in marketing the exhibitions to audiences on a local, state and national scale. In 2007 and 2008 NETS Victoria staged 2 symposia2 that engaged over 240 arts workers, curators, academics, artists and students from across Australia. By 2008 NETS Victoria had significantly extended its regional reach presenting six touring exhibitions at 25 locations to more than 105,000 people. This increased exhibition activity in the latter half of this decade reached total audiences of more than 900,000 who attended 113 presentations of 21 touring exhibitions.
NETS Victoria works closely with our industry peer organisation the Public Galleries Association of Victoria and delivers services to its member. Together we develop mutually beneficial projects and programs that build capacity for the sector.
In any year, NETS Victoria’s program features well over 100 Australian artists ranging from leading established artists through mid career and early career artists and designers. Our touring exhibitions have highlighted many of Australia’s most respected artists, craft and designers and recently these have included; Brook Andrew, Daniel von Sturmer, Louise Weaver, Marion Hosking, MaterialBYPRODUCT, Vernon Ah Kee, Richard Bell, Simryn Gill, Del Kathryn Barton, Kit Wise, John Meade, Jon Campbell, Gareth Sansom and Lorraine Connelly Northey, David Rosetzky, Ghostpatrol, Elizabeth Gower, Timothy Cook, and Adam Laerkesen to name a few.
Over the last 20 years NETS Victoria has toured more than 70 exhibitions to over 370 destinations. Organisational records indicate that more than 2 million people have attended have NETS Victoria exhibitions since the early nineties.
In the most recent triennium, NETS Victoria has generated audiences of over 200,000 visitors through 10 exhibitions of contemporary art, craft and design that toured to 51 separate galleries and museums across 6 States and Territories. We secured Visions funding for the development and touring of 3 projects and secured additional project funding of $515,000 to tour 193 works of art by 86 artists. 31 public programs were delivered to audiences of 1700 people. 9950 students engaged with NETS Victoria’s program through educational and schools workshops.
NETS Victoria’s inaugural 2014 commission, The Cinemas Project, curated by Bridget Crone, comprised a program of major new contemporary art commissions that explored the art and architecture of cinema in regional Victoria by five of Australia’s leading contemporary artists: Brook Andrew (Bendigo), Mikala Dwyer (Mildura), Bianca Hester (Warrnambool), Lily Hibberd (Morwell) and Tom Nicholson (Geelong). The multitude of successful outcomes included engaging new audiences for contemporary art (particularly Lily Hibberd’s project with the Regent Theatre, Yarram), the acquisition of a new work into Mildura Art Centre’s collection, as well as extensive media profiling. The Cinemas Project enabled us to leverage support and demonstrate to philanthropic partners, regional galleries, curators and artists that NETS Victoria is delivering projects at the forefront of contemporary art and leading the way in touring initiatives.