The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - THE MONA EFFECT -

Walsh once said his mo­ti­va­tion for build­ing Hobart’s Mu­seum of New and Old Art was to “ab­solve my­self from feel­ing guilty about mak­ing money with­out mak­ing a mark”. Mona may have soaked up much of his gam­bling for­tune but along the way Walsh has inked a lurid and in­deli­ble tat­too on the bi­ceps of Tas­ma­nian ­his­tory. In do­ing so he has changed the for­tunes of his home state. Walsh made Hobart hip.

Dr Natasha Cica, a writer, aca­demic and now di­rec­tor of Mel­bourne’s Heide Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, was back liv­ing and work­ing in Hobart in the years be­fore Mona and was there to wit­ness the city flour­ish af­ter the mu­seum opened. “I grew up in Hobart and that was a very dif­fer­ent place from the Hobart of now,” she tells me. “To me, old Hobart felt al­most com­pletely cut off from the rest of the world.” Any­one who wanted to achieve had to leave. “That hasn’t changed com­pletely but it has sub­stan­tially and it is largely due to Mona… it is about the in­spi­ra­tion of some­body hav­ing the guts to step out of the square and take a risk.”

Mona’s suc­cess has not only fos­tered a tourist boom but has shifted the mind­set of Tas­ma­ni­ans “from a poverty men­tal­ity to one of pros­per­ity”, Cica says. “It has fast-tracked Tas­ma­nia into the 21st cen­tury. We were lag­ging and now we are ahead of the pack in lots of ways.” Lo­cals are re­turn­ing and tree-chang­ers are ar­riv­ing with their main­land money and ideas. New restau­rants and cafés have opened and there’s a thriv­ing de­sign and arts scene. Mona sparked a cul­tural awak­en­ing. A few weeks ago Cica took a friend, a Ger­man sculp­tor, to Hobart and he was “blown away”, she

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