Arts centre redevelopment designs revealed

An artist's impression of the Geelong Arts Centre redevelopment. (Supplied) 259812_01

Ash Bolt

The state government has released its designs for its $140 million redevelopment of the Geelong Arts Centre, which premier Daniel Andrews said would make it the largest regional arts centre in the country.

Mr Andrews visited the centre today to see the designs, which included state-of-the-art facilities and two flexible performance spaces.

The new facility will include a 500-seat theatre that expands to an 800-person capacity in “live gig” mode, as well as a hybrid theatre with more than 250 seats connected to the Little Malop Street Plaza.

“I remember being here a few years ago … talking about the fact that we would transform … this precinct into something so much better than what it has been,” Mr Andrews said.

“And that’s exactly what we are delivering today. This will be Australia’s biggest regional arts centre – not just Victoria, but Australia’s biggest regional art centre.

“[We’re investing] $140 million and I couldn’t think of a better place to spend it.

“It is all about jobs, setting us up for the future and making sure that that our state is strong because unless Geelong is strong, unless regional Victoria is thriving and booming, then our state can never reach its full potential.

“It’ll be such a magical creative space that people can come along, be questioned, be thrilled, be entertained. That whole sweep of emotion and inquiry. That’s what creativity is all about. That’s what our trading economy and creative sector is all about.

“I’m very confident that people will be very happy in Geelong to note that they’ve got, I think, the very best facility of its kind anywhere in any region of our nation.

“That’s something to be very proud of.”

The facility’s design brings together elements from Geelong’s history, and showcases the region’s strong and continuing First Nations culture, its proximity to the ocean, and the local history of circus and theatre.

Architects Ashton Raggatt McDougall worked with the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation to weave in stories of the lands, waters and skies as well as local ochres, jarosites from Bells Beach and greenstone found at Dog Rocks in Batesford.

Geelong’s history will be expressed in the Lascelles wool store-inspired moulded concrete walls and the design features a curtain shaped facade inspired by Victoria’s early history of performance, theatre and circus tents.

Geelong Art Centre chief executive and artistic director Joel McGuinness said the design “truly imagines what an art centre can be for the future”.

“This vision is bold and is a once in a generation opportunity designed to deliver state-of-the-art spaces catering to the full spectrum of performance experiences and providing opportunities for artists and jobs within the creative industries,” he said.

“The Geelong Art Centre Little Malop Street redevelopment will be a significant step in the cultural vitality of our city as we reposition from our manufacturing past, to a knowledge, technology and culturally based future.

“This design is about reconciliation, representation and about really supporting artists in our community, and we’re really thrilled to be able to share it.”

The project will create around 600 construction jobs and provide opportunities for local apprentices, in a major economic boost to the Geelong community, Mr Andrews said.

The project is being delivered by a partnership between the Geelong Arts Centre, Creative Victoria, Development Victoria and Lendlease and is due to be completed by late 2023.