By Erin Handley.
First published Monday, 8 October 2012 in Farrago.
The George Paton Gallery has temporarily closed its doors to artists while the air is monitored for airborne asbestos fibres. The Gallery, situated on the second floor of Union House, expects to reopen in late October once it has received a full clearance certificate.
Trevor White, CEO of Melbourne University Student Union Ltd (MUSUL), specified that the closure of the Gallery is “a precaution [because] there’s some asbestos in the ceiling of the Union Theatre and the Theatre wall abuts the Gallery”.
Mr White confirmed that “more than likely there will be” future asbestos discoveries in Union House.
“It’s probably an issue that will go on for some time, to try and find out and eradicate the asbestos from the university,” he said.
He specified that so far the asbestos levels are “all in the allowable limits”.
“There were audits done in 2008 so we know where the stuff is and it’s contained so now they’re doing a new audit.”
“There’s probably asbestos in every building in Melbourne. It’s a matter of making sure it’s contained. The trouble was the stuff in the ceiling has broken down,” Mr White added.
Student exhibitions booked into the Gallery from the start of September until the end of October will be forced to find alternative venues to showcase their art. Jake Preval’s series of sculpturally informed photographs, Costumes for the Ark, is one such exhibition, along with Georgia Anson, En-En See and Erin Tily-Laurie’s Come with us, Claudia Phares’ It’s conceivable!, and Alex Jaunozols, James Tunks and Kalinda Vary’s Seeing the Unseen.
Preval admitted that the George Paton closure was a setback for his exhibition: “It’s really unfortunate but as it’s beyond anyone’s control you just have to roll with it,” he said.
Preval confirmed that it’s been difficult to find an alternate space for his exhibition “due to the tight timeframe”.
Nonetheless, he expressed his gratitude to the George Paton Gallery team. “They have been incredibly helpful in attempting to locate a new space for the work and have also been very supportive. They were very open about the situation and contacted us immediately,” he said.
The recent discovery of asbestos has been unfortunate for the cultural arts at Melbourne University; the George Paton Gallery is the third closure of a cultural space in Union House this semester. Farrago reported that the Union Theatre was closed in August for asbestos removal. The Des Connor rehearsal room will also be closed until the end of semester, as the entrance is inaccessible “due to the asbestos removal work in the Union Theatre,” according to Union House Theatre eNews.
Fortunately, all eight productions booked into the Union Theatre this semester have been able to find alternative venues.