A Federal Labor Government would spend $5 million on building, energy efficiency and heritage upgrades to help revitalise Gorman House Arts Centre ahead of the building’s 100th birthday.
Labor said the investment would also improve the complex’s functionality so it would be better able to provide safe and inclusive spaces for artists and the community.
The funding would build on an $8 million pre-2020-election commitment from ACT Labor.
Gorman House was built in the 1920s as a hostel for government workers before being turned into an arts centre in 1984. It will celebrate its centenary in 2024.
Incumbent Labor Senator Katy Gallagher said it had been a tough couple of years for the arts sector.
Two years of the pandemic meant many performances and exhibitions have had to be put on hold or cancelled altogether, leading to a loss of income for many working in the sector.
Senator Gallagher also accused the Coalition of “abandoning” the sector.
“Only a Federal Labor Government would make sure that Gorman House is fit for purpose and in a state to inspire the next generation of creatives in Canberra while remaining true to the rich heritage of the building,” she said.
“I am proud to be able to commit to this funding that will support Canberra’s vibrant arts community.”
Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres’ board chair Mark Van Veen agreed that the last two and a half years had been difficult for the arts sector.
“For those artists who relied heavily on the ability to perform or exhibit for crowds, for instance, to have that swept away from them meant a lot of uncertainty,” he explained.
“It also meant an instant loss of income which was very difficult to manage … and only just now are we seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
For the centre more broadly, Mr Van Veen said the pandemic had highlighted the need for them to find and retain secure funding.
He welcomed Federal Labor’s funding announcement, noting it would build on the support the local government had already either given them throughout the pandemic or promised to the upgrades.
He explained the extra dollars would be a “real boost” as inflationary pressure and the pandemic had left the centre management worried about how they would complete the required works with the ACT Government’s $8 million pledge made two years ago.
“[Federal Labor’s funding] would really help get us a big step closer to actually turning Gorman House into the arts centre everyone wants it to be,” Mr Van Veen said.
“All Canberrans really have a soft spot for those buildings and want to see them preserved for the future.”
The building requires renovation and preservation works to alleviate work, health and safety issues that have arisen due to their age and other spaces require upgrading to keep them modern and usable for today’s arts community, Mr Van Veen explained.
“We have been doing lots of work with our stakeholders in the broader community to see what they want, because this is a centre for the community.”