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A new look: Ainslie & Gorman Arts Centre

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Newly renovated and seriously striking, Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres (AGAC) are throwing one hell of a launch party this Friday (10 July). Expect to experience a multi-arts spectacle of live music, art, installations, food stalls from The Forage, a bar, roving performers plus a few extra surprises (that even we don’t know about).

In the 2013-14 budget, commitments were made to invest $1.5 million and $1 million in capital upgrades to the Ainslie and Gorman House Arts Centres respectively, with Minister for Arts Joy Burch stating that the ACT government were committed to developing arts hubs that would add vibrancy and profile to the local arts sector.


From the outside, many would know the Centre for its Saturday morning markets (specifically Gorman), which [sadly] held their last day of trade in earlier this year in May, after more than 25 years of operation. But nestled behind the walls of the beautiful heritage listed buildings are where you’ll find residents of some of the ACT’s key arts organisations, making the twin centres the city’s largest collective of professional artists and arts companies.

BMA Magazine, ACT Writers Centre, You Are Here and Canberra Youth Theatre (all in Gorman), and Canberra International Music Festival and Music For Canberra (in Ainslie) to name just a few. Plus an eclectic mix of photographers, sound engineers, dancers, writers, a violin maker, printmakers, fabric weavers not to mention the tranquil Mint Garden Bar and multi-award winning Sage Restaurant (in Gorman) – the artistic engine rooms form Canberra’s creative heart.

While Ainslie Arts Centre is dedicated to everything music — rehearsals, performances and education — Gorman Arts Centre supports creative development across all forms including dance, visual arts, theatre, literature and more.

Together, Ainslie was the first government school on the northside and Gorman among the first hostel accommodation built in Canberra for lower-paid public servants. The buildings date back to the 1920s but it was in 1981 that Gorman was transformed into an independent, not-for-profit arts hub.


Ainslie and Gormans Arts Centre circa 1924-1926.


The Centres have just released a series of EOI’s (Expression of Interest) for arts opportunities in all areas – music, theatre, dance, writing, creative start-ups and more. There are nine studio spaces at Gorman plus 30 furnished workstations for artists, musician and creative start-ups in serviced co-working spaces spread across the two Centres. Ainslie also has 10 classrooms and three purpose-built sound-insulated pods for rehearsal and tuition.

Opportunities to pitch ideas to the creative producers (to be part of the Artistic Program) include using the venues and a 200-seat refurbished and dedicated concert hall at Ainslie, the newly created Ralph Indie program for supporting independent performing artists, plus the 2016 Visiting Artist Program including short-term live-work accommodation for interstate and international artists.

Creative Producer of AGAC, Adelaide Rief, is excited to show off the sensitively restored buildings to artists and audiences.


Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre circa 1921-1931.


“The Arts Centres have been undergoing a series of capital works funded by the ACT Government to bring them up to the standards that they deserve to be at,” says Adelaide.

“They are beautiful, heritage buildings with gorgeous venues, but they haven’t been upgraded or maintained over the years. It’s been a really major project, to restore the venues so their heritage value is still retained, but also making them into beautiful, accessible and most importantly flexible spaces that can be used for a whole range of arts activities.”

The main event is over at Ainslie (located 500 metres from Gorman). The Main Hall has been used by a lot of community groups over recent years and was in need of upgrading and updating. The space has been really beautifully transformed into a high quality, professional performance venue boasting stunning wooden floors, professional sound and lighting, huge glass windows and a concert stage.


The newly renovated Main Hall.


There’s a lot of potential.

There’s also the Reception Hall which is like a lounge-style venue that can be used for meetings and small recitals alike.

“There’s nothing quite like it [the Main Hall] in Canberra; it’s a really unique space. You’re going to love it!” says Adelaide.

The launch party in a lot of ways will be about the transformation of the spaces and what that means. It will be about altering the perception of the spaces as well as what the public and residents are able to do in them. Not only a showcase of what already exists at Ainslie and Gorman, but what the Centres want to see as well.

“A lot of the artwork at the launch will respond to the architecture and form of the building, and changing your perception of the space. We’ve got music from local bands Slow Turismo, one of my favourites at the moment Faux Faux Amis, the brain child of Luke McGrath – he’s a really long-term Canberra musician and filmmaker and a great combination of pop-punk, jazz and they’re going to have live video mixing as part of their set and they do a lot of short sharp stuff, plus more,” says Adelaide.

Mark Henshaw and Adelaide are the newly minted Creative Producers of AGAC, responsible for the production of the creative program at the launch, curating the music, the artists; and really all the fun stuff.

The duo have also been working on the Centres’ Creative Programme to be launched on the night and is definitely something to keep your eyes open and ears piqued for. After confessing my jealousy to Adelaide, she quips, “It’s my dream job. I have a background in law and working for You Are Here on the side, so it feels surreal to actually be doing it as a day to day job.”

As for the launch, she says it’s going to be a lot of fun.

“The launch is going to have a bit of theatricality to it. It’s not just going to be your standard have a drink (although there will be that, too!). Join us for a party. There will be special elements to it. When I say ‘art installations’, you might have to find them, they may not be as obvious as you are expecting; there will also be interactive art works.”

“We want people to feel like it’s a bit of a ‘Hollywood lights’ special occasion. There will also be live projection mapping outside the building from ANU Art School students. A lot of the artwork will be interesting and provocative and surprising too. Think of it like an art party, really,” says Adelaide.

The essentials

What: Ainslie and Gorman House Arts Centres Opening Party
When: 6pm Friday 10 July
Where: Ainslie Arts Centre, 30 Elouera Street, Braddon
Tickets: Tickets start from $10 for students and $20 adults. Purchase your ticket here.
Find AGAC on Facebook or visit their website

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