RACING identity and art aficionado Tony Cavanagh has pledged his support for the Horsham Town Hall project.
Speaking as Horsham's Australia Day ambassador at Sunday morning's ceremony, he stressed the importance of a new gallery and performing arts centre.
"Regional Victoria has outstanding galleries, and Horsham Regional Art Gallery needs to be encouraged in its pursuit of excellence to land a major attraction and to obtain more substantial funds from benefactors," he said.
"The opening of Horsham's new performing arts centre will be a step in the right direction and an integral part of the new beginning here.
"I certainly hope I will be able to share that with you next year and I also look forward over the next 12 months to hopefully have a bit of an input."
Mr Cavanagh said he was keen to work with Horsham Rural City Council to make the most of the development.
Horsham Mayor David Grimble has invited Mr Cavanagh to return to the city to further discuss his ideas.
"He is obviously enthusiastic and very committed to the arts," Cr Grimble said.
Mr Cavanagh is an advisory board member of Menzies Art Brands, Australia's leading art auction house.
Cr Grimble said he was
unprepared for Mr Cavanagh's comments, but appreciated his interest.
Council has budgeted $1 million in community fundraising and philanthropic contributions to help pay for the $20-million town hall redevelopment.
"We anticipate we will get some philanthropic fundraising, but it's still a considerable amount of money for the committee to raise," Cr Grimble said.
A steering committee has been formed to secure funding for the project.
Now that construction is underway, Cr Grimble said the group would ramp up its efforts.
"We are pretty positive we will see some good fundraising in the next six months and the duration of the project," he said.
"We've got an 18-month build, which gives us some time."
Otherwise, council will have to offset the shortfall.
"The arts community will have a role to play, too," Cr Grimble said.
"They're having a performing arts centre purpose-built for them.
"The trick now is to build the project within the allocated budget."