FROM the glorious fig debacle of 2012 to major national exhibitions, the Newcastle Art Gallery has stood through more than many buildings. The space is now getting a major upgrade - which will double the exhibition space of the Laman Street gallery and add a new cafe - but much of the extension hinges on donations. On Tuesday, a $1.3 million contribution was handed to Newcastle council from the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation as building work continues. Chair of the foundation Susan Galwey said this was a significant milestone because it shows huge community fundraising efforts toward the much-loved building. "This cheque represents two decades of community passion, advocacy and fundraising for a world class gallery for Newcastle and the Hunter," Ms Galwey said. "In particular, community fundraising through the many Lady Mayoress Dinners led by Cathy Tate OAM and a dedicated organising committee along with support from local businesses and individual donors." Councillors voted in April to award a $43.8 million construction contract to Hansen Yuncken. This cost was several million dollars more than expenses first calculated in January 2022. The council said in April much of the cost blow-out could be attributed to rising building expenses, particularly steel. The council is paying for half the redevelopment, the state and federal governments have committed $5 million each, Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation $13 million and the Margaret Olley Art Trust $500,000. Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes accepted foundation's the cheque and said it was an important step in the expansion. The foundation, which operates independently from council, was established in 1977. "The Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation has played a valuable role in supporting the Gallery and the growth of its collection," Cr Nelmes said. "City of Newcastle will continue to work together with the foundation as our shared dream for the gallery becomes a reality through the long-awaited expansion." Director of Newcastle Art Gallery Lauretta Morton also acknowledged the foundation's efforts. The gallery was closed almost two years ago with an initial completion date of mid-2024. This has since been pushed back to late next year. The council lodged an application to change the building design earlier this year, and has said the updates will not impact completion timing. The proposed changes include adding metal fins and an electronic sign to the building's Darby Street facade, a "minor" reconfiguration of the gallery's internal layout and extending an atrium roof. The council voted several months ago to write to NSW and federal governments asking for funding to be indexed in line with inflation as building costs loom large.