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New Arts Centre – Capital’s creative hub - opens

19 July 2005

New Arts Centre – Capital’s creative hub - opens

The ground-breaking new Wellington Arts Centre in Abel Smith Street will be opened by Mayor Kerry Prendergast tomorrow (Wednesday 20 July).

“I am delighted that Wellington City Council has been able to fulfil its commitment to the city’s emerging artists and creative, talented people. I know this hub of creativity will be a very popular place for many years to come. In fact that’s already proven – the Centre is already home to a heady combination of emerging young artists, tutors and arts organisations, and that’s even before it has been officially opened,” Mayor Prendergast says.

“Our intention is for this Centre to become Wellington’s house of the arts, a forge for creativity, innovation and new ideas,” she says.

The Arts Centre, in two former Education Board buildings, is the result of more than two years’ hard work by the arts community and the Council.

Mayor Prendergast says the Centre, unique in New Zealand, will ensure that artists and creative people continue to have affordable space in the central city as it continues to develop and change.

“This new facility epitomises our Creative Wellington – Innovation Capital vision to attract talented and creative people to our city. Indeed, the Centre provides extra space for the steadily increasing numbers of artists setting up in Wellington because of its strong reputation for culture and creativity.”

Cr Ray Ahipene-Mercer, the City Council’s Culture and Arts Portfolio Spokesperson, says the Arts Centre shows the Council is committed to the whole arts spectrum. “In the past decade we have helped the city’s more established and ‘mainstream’ arts and culture groups to find permanent homes that meet their need for top-quality rehearsal and administrative space.

“This place caters for those artists who, until now, have been scattered all over the CBD – in old warehouses, offices and even the classic freezing top-floor garret.”

Cr Ahipene-Mercer says the city is changing and many of the old “creative” spaces are disappearing, so the Council considers the money invested in these buildings – to keep the city’s outstanding arts community in the CBD – is money well spent.

The campaign to find a large arts venue followed a growing general awareness in recent years that, while more artists and art groups were being attracted to Wellington, the ongoing development of apartment and commercial space in the CBD meant there was less available or affordable space for creative pursuits. Wellington’s artists also said they wanted a home for the arts where they could share ideas, network and learn new skills.

Council staff and arts community leaders looked at a number of schemes and sites aimed at accommodating emerging artists in the CBD – but each had its shortcomings. Luckily, the two adjoining buildings in Abel Smith Street became available in mid-2004.

The Council has leased the property for 21 years. About $1 million has been spent in the past few months on a comprehensive refit of the buildings. The Council has committed to contributing around 40% of the annual lease costs of the property – the rest is to be covered by the tenants.

It is intended that an independent trust will be established in 2006 to oversee the long-term running of the Centre.

Highlights of the Arts Centre: 3000 square metres of space over seven floors Two buildings – one completed in 1979, the other, built for the Wellington Education Board in 1940, is listed on the City Council’s Heritage Inventory. It is considered a prime example of art deco/Stripped Classical architecture. Facilities include 28 artists’ studios, art gallery, photographic darkroom, two teaching workshops, meeting and rehearsal spaces, three music studios, project room and offices. Studio leases range from three months to 24 months.

Media representatives are welcome to attend tomorrow’s opening – highlights: 3pm – blessing of the buildings 4.45pm – unveiling of the commemorative plaque by Mayor Prendergast 5.20pm – speeches.

Members of the public will have a first chance to check out the Centre during an Open Day on Saturday 30 July, between 1pm and 5pm.


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