“By building on the gallery’s existing foundation and countrywide reputation, my aspiration is to bring a new dimension to the art landscape in the Lowveld – further raising awareness for excellence in art and artistic practice.”
These are the words of Dana MacFarlane of Halifax Art, the new director and curator of the White River Gallery, who took over the reins in January 2018.
Dana recently relocated to Nelspruit, providing an opportunity for her to share her passion and purpose as a gallerist and promoter of arts with the Lowveld communities. Her company Halifax Art, which previously directed and managed a gallery in Johannesburg, will now serve as the powerhouse behind the White River Gallery in terms of broader artistic projects, also offering an art consultancy and advisory service. In addition to showcasing established talent, Dana aims to raise the level of emerging talent through collaborative engagement with art educational institutions in the area. “The White River Gallery will enable local viewers and art appreciators to sample broader South African contemporary and conceptual art on a regular basis,” continues MacFarlane.
Built in 2007 as an addition to the iconic Casterbridge Lifestyle Village, the White River Gallery was designed by architect and avid art collector Gavin Smitsdorp. The brainchild of Gavin and Louis van der Merwe, the gallery was built to provide a platform for visual arts in the Lowveld and has since seen countless group and solo exhibitions. In the last 10 years, under the guise of curator Marlize Meyer, the gallery has enabled artistic talent in the Lowveld to be viewed and appreciated.
With its contemporary exterior of concrete, glass and iron, the gallery has been a strongly recognisable feature in White River and surrounds, associated for many years with art-related events in the Lowveld. Designed as the quintessential “white cube”, its ingenious inverted ceiling allows the flow of natural light, the interior warmly reminiscent of church-like serenity facilitating the viewing of art in peaceful solitude. Although it is much loved by the community as an arts gem, regular visitors from further afield have fuelled its countrywide reputation as a gallery of standing and consistency.
The gallery is currently under renovation and will re-launch and open with its first exhibition on Saturday, 3 March. The group exhibition titled “A Palette of Short Stories” alludes to the communicative influence of art, allowing each artist to share their unique story through three or four selected artworks. The exhibition includes local and broader South African artists and concludes on Sunday, 8 April. An exciting arts programme for the Gallery in 2018 is planned, which will be shared shortly.