As we emerge from the COVID-19 hibernation, Canberra artists and creatives have more reason to celebrate than most with the completion of the $15 million Belconnen Arts Centre.
Upgrades will now allow the theatre space to accommodate 400 seated patrons, and contain new theatre dressing rooms, bathrooms, a green room, a new rehearsal space, a loading dock and an events kitchen.
The artistic director and co-CEO of the Belconnen Arts Centre, Monika McInerney, said it was a dream come true for the local community, and Canberra artists and creatives alike.
“It is an extraordinary gift for the community,” she said.
“I see it becoming the heart of Belconnen, as a generator of new works and a home for artists, creatives and practitioners across this region.
“We have the most beautiful theatre and that is going to be a place where people can come and have a whole suite of different experiences because it is a flexible space.
“It is a space that is full of magic.”
While artists have been unable to play concerts to live, in-person audiences for the last few months, Ms McInerney says she has complete faith in Canberra’s creatives to come up with innovative ways to deliver installations and artworks in a post-COVID-19 world.
“There is always going to be a level of anxiety, but being someone who has been involved with the arts sector for a long time, I have absolute faith in the creative sector to be able to find solutions,” she said.
“The flexibility and versatility of artists, they are in the perfect position of being able to find ways and means of accessing the community and presenting their works.
“It is a challenge but I believe the creative sector will be able to really rise to it.”
The first glimpses of the newly completed stage 2 at #BelconnenArts.
An election commitment delivered on time, on budget, and which will really enrich our community.
I’m looking forward to the official opening – stay tuned! #Belconnen pic.twitter.com/ewaCtGr8X6
— Gordon Ramsay MLA (@Gordon_R_Ramsay) June 12, 2020
The arts and creative industries have been some of the hardest hit during the COVID-19 crisis, and the new upgrades will allow more people to attend an extra 10 exhibitions every year to help the sectors recover, Minister for the Arts, Creative Industries and Cultural Events Gordon Ramsay said.
“Our arts activities are so important for us as a community, and they will become more important as we come out of the COVID restrictions,” he said.
“The arts build our sense of identity, the arts capture who we are, they give us a chance to reflect on where life is.
“So many people have turned to the arts over the restrictions, and having more spaces for people to be able to engage with the arts is going to be extremely important.”
Lauding the integral role the arts and creative sectors played in helping entertain and inform Australians during the lockdown, Mr Ramsay again called on the Federal Government to do more for the multi-billion dollar industry.
“I have been on the record calling on the Federal Government to have a very specific support package for our artists,” he said.
“It is clear that the states and territories have been carrying the weight with the support we have been providing across Canberra.
“We hear that there are things that are being talked about at the Federal Government level, but we have not seen enough yet. I call on the Federal Government to be providing a very clear support package for our arts and creative sector.”
Mr Ramsay also announced a spate of minor upgrades and maintenance works for arts facilities across Canberra as part of the Government’s fast-tracked, screwdriver-ready projects to help the economy recover after the lockdown.
The program, which has employed more than 50 Canberrans, is helping deliver improvements to the safety of the heritage windows at the Ainslie Arts Centre, upgrades to toilet facilities at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre and Watson Arts Centre, and improvements to the Canberra Glassworks foyer space.
Light fixtures are also being replaced at various facilities in favour of more energy-efficient LED fitting and improvements are taking place at heritage-listed cottages at Lanyon.
To view a list of fast-tracked infrastructure and maintenance projects please visit the Fast track program.