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A stage for Canberra’s stellar arts scene

Catherine Carter

Name a city with a world-class arts precinct, and the usual suspects will spring to mind.

Paris with its 150 museums and iconic architecture. New York with Broadway and The Met. London, chock-full of the spoils of empire. Florence, cradle of the Renaissance, or St Petersburg, home of celebrated ballet and the Hermitage museum.

But Canberra?

You may be surprised to learn that Canberra’s treasures extend far beyond Blue Poles in the National Gallery of Australia.

We have many hidden treasures in Canberra and an army of talented artists with reputations for world-class excellence in the arts. The Canberra Glassworks, for example, is home to a number of artists with big international reputations.

These include Tom Rowney who is renowned as one of the most accomplished glass blowers in Australia and a highly sought after teacher internationally, Brian Corr who creates extraordinary sculptures and large-scale installations, and Jenni Kemarre Martiniello who draws on her Aboriginal heritage to make contemporary glass art as a powerful vehicle for cultural expression.

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Showcasing our cultural and artistic heritage requires the right stage. And this is why I’m excited by the news that the ACT Government has chosen a consortium to develop the new Kingston Arts Precinct.

Internationally-renowned architecture firm Fender Katsalidis and Oculus landscape and urban design – the team behind some of Australia’s most spectacular contemporary designs such as the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart and the multi-award winning NewActon precinct – are joining forces with Canberra developer GEOCON to create a new cultural and community hub.

The proposed area of the Kingston Arts Precinct

The proposed area of the Kingston Arts Precinct

At the moment, the site in question is largely a car park that sits empty every weekday, but which is teeming with people on the weekend as the Old Bus Depot Markets hums with life.

But picture a precinct that enhances the precious heritage of the Power House, now home to the Glassworks, the Fitters Workshop, and Megalo Print Studio, with new buildings brimming with artists’ workshops, gallery spaces and offices.

Just some of the organisations looking to join the Glassworks and Megalo in the space include the Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Craft ACT, Photo Access, Art SoundFM, and the Canberra Potters’ Society.

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The possibilities are exciting. Consider the potential for outdoor entertainment and events in landscaped plazas adorned with public art.

Imagine a new destination hotel attracting visitors wanting to cycle around the lake, enjoy a long lunch at one of the many restaurants along the Kingston Foreshore or take a short stroll right into the heart of the local arts community.

We now have a timeline, direction and certainty around the future development – and the opportunity to integrate both residential and commercial development, blending together the arts and culture with food, retail and residential, in a way that will attract new visitors to Canberra and support our thriving artistic community.

It’s a bold future and an exciting one. This is how we put Canberra on the arts and culture map.

Images: Supplied

Catherine Carter

A lover of books and beauty, a seasoned traveller and creative thinker, Catherine is passionate about Canberra. Head of the Property Council of Australia’s Canberra office for more than a decade, Catherine now heads up a boutique consulting firm, Indigo Consulting Australia, where she retains an interest and focus on urban environments, community building, and diversity. She provides a range of specialist business and communication advisory services to a number of organisations including development and construction companies, law firms, and the Canberra Glassworks, and sits on a several boards including Music for Canberra, the National Association of Women in Construction ACT Chapter Council and the Ministerial Advisory Council on Women. Catherine was the recipient of the Telstra Business Women’s ACT Community and Government Award in 2010. More about the Author

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