Moving On: Deborah Klein steps down as Ballarat’s iconic Backspace Director

As published in the Ballarat Times News Group
Article by Alan Marini

Deborah Klein is synonymous with Ballarat’s Backspace gallery, a vision that she made possible.

The Community Arts & Culture Coordinator with the City of Ballarat, Ms Klein has left her ‘baby’ to pursue other interests.

“I started in December 2012,” she said.

“Backspace Gallery used to be a café from the Art Gallery of Ballarat and when the front of the gallery was redeveloped, a café was put in there.

“The former café was an empty space, sometimes being used for workshops, sometimes for talks but it was mostly empty and so when I started one of the first things people said, when I did my rounds asking what do you think we should do, one of the first things I hear was we need a place to show work.

“I had been running gallery visual arts programs for the last hundred years and thought I can do this.

Moving on: The City of Ballarat’s Community Arts & Culture Coordinator,
Deborah Klein, is stepping down from her role
(photo: Alan Marini)

Ms Klein added at that time there was no place that had community access and which helped support emerging artists and a diversity of work.

“It’s a beautiful little space and something I had done many, many times in past jobs and past incarnations.”

Council gave Ms Klein the use of the building from January to April – to run with, as she seemed fit.

“Council said they were not going to give me any money for it, and I had until April and off we went and it’s been going ever since,” she said.
“We have had hundreds of artists come through here and thousands of people through.

“The things that have come out of here have been pretty phenomenal, including the pop up shops for the first couple of Christmases.

“The Backspace Gallery has definitely worked. We have been oversubscribed every time I have a call for artists or exhibition proposals, and it doesn’t cost a lot to run but it takes a lot of my time. It has also activated Alfred Deakin Place.”

Ms Klein added that the City of Ballarat has been very generous and this is probably unprecedented in any local government.

“I came at a very fortuitous time for me because I had come off running two make programs in the United States and I said you know what we can do here is have a space, we can do free live music, live performances – Ballarat was very welcoming, Council was very generous in terms of enabling me to do the stuff they didn’t know what the outcomes would be,” she said.

“So I’ve had unprecedented access and I have to thank council for that because they made it possible.”

Ms Klein is originally from Seattle and then New Orleans and says in the 70’s se went off ‘to be a hippy’ and fell in love with a crew of Australians and came to Australian in 1979.
Now that her time at the Backspace Gallery is over Deborah says she is looking forward to the future.

“I’m really looking forward to being home for a while, I haven’t actually ben home for the past six to seven years; just a few days here and there,” she said.

“I have 10 acres, a garden, a couple of small family businesses that have been ticking over in the background and I want to get involved there.

“So I’ll do some writing, some project management for my daughter who is doing architectural installations, my husband is doing cabinet making at the moment, so I’ll get involved in that and I have my own work – there is a lot of going on.”