Gold Coast Cultural Precinct: The New Heart of Arts

Over the next 10-15 years the various stages of a multimillion dollar cultural precinct on the Gold Coast will get delivered. The construction of Stage 1 has started with the estimated completion for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. But what makes a cultural precinct and what can we expect of this large-scale project?

Cultural Precincts are considered central to a city’s artistic reputation, driving creativity, innovation and economic growth. At its best, a cultural precinct re-energises the city, improves visitor experiences and better connects the cultural assets.

The Cultural Precinct website summarises the project.

“A cultural precinct will create a focal point, a new kind of civic square that will be a destination for locals and tourists. It will be a place where people come together to engage with arts, culture and each other, a place that ‘makes visible’ the Gold Coast’s cultural and creative life.”

“The City of Gold Coast’s vision is that when completed, the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct will include drama, music, dance, art, new media and public sculpture, as well as creative educational opportunities and an extensive outdoor program of activities that make the most of the exceptional public space opportunities of Evandale.”

Stage 1 of the Cultural Precinct has commenced. Nothing earth shattering has taken place yet as the project is still in its demolition phase, but mid-year the construction is expected to start for the Riverside Hub closely followed by the construction works for the Amphitheatre and the Artscape. All of this is expected to be completed late 2017 just in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The Amphitheatre (or Versatile Outdoor Space if you prefer) is envisioned as a green area to host performances of all kinds and scale. Equipped with services and technology for wide range events, the space is designed to suit performances from more intimate performances with the smaller audiences of up to 1000 people, to headline acts attracting 5000 people and more.

If the Amphitheatre will be for the performing arts, the Riverside Hub will be the hone for visual arts. It will utilize the council’s existing Riverside Building for a transitional Riverside Gallery for visual art exhibitions but will give way to the Art Tower, the precinct’s centre piece at a later stage. Flexible gallery spaces will be located in the first floor with an external courtyard to display outdoor art installations and host exhibitions launches and special events.

As well as the visual arts hub, The Riverside Hub will be the creative and administrational centre of the precinct. It is likely to accommodate a large variety of office and workspaces from the administration practices of the precinct to cultural partners and creative tenancies. And the weary art lover gets to replenish their hunger and rest their legs at the café of course.

Last but not least, Stage 1 includes Artscapes, the areas linking all the facilities together. These areas are curated, artistic and botanical landscapes activated by artistic programming, installations, picnics, markets, festivals and cinema.

What makes a cultural precinct a success? Is it simple question of ‘If you build it, they will come’? How do you make sure it is not just geography and a duplication of one of many cultural precincts around the country?

Many cities have cultural precincts at the heart of their creative community, arts production, visitor experience and simply the atmosphere and ’the feel’ of the city. Melbourne Art Precinct is a series of galleries, performing art venues and amongst other things, spaces for schools and training institutions of many art schools. Quite distinctively Melbourne.

Adelaide Cultural Precinct then again is located along the river Murray at the northern end of the city and is the home of Adelaide Festival Centre, State Library of South Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia to mention a few. A touch of the old continent with a twist of festivals and contemporary life.

And then there is the Cultural Precinct down the road – Southbank in Brisbane – showcasing the best cultural offerings with a strong focus on the Queensland lifestyle at the banks of the river.

Gold Coast Cultural Precinct will be strongly about where we live and how we live. The values of the precinct focus on the outdoor component of the precinct, the Artscape. The garden settings for festivals, events, cinema and family fun will be an obvious representation the outdoor lifestyle of our city and its stunning natural assets. The colourful, vertical museum Gold Coast Art Tower will blend well and be a natural extension of the skyscape with its high risers and vertical lines. And then, as all good cultural precincts do, it will support and expand opportunities for local artists and art practitioners for excellence in local and touring arts and cinema, rehearsals and collaboration spaces.  But for a very long time still, this will be a work in progress. The distinctively Gold Coast program of content will be formed along the way and built on the success and challenges of previous stages.

As Anna Carroll, Precinct Transition Manager, pointed out, to get the content right and meaningful doesn’t only ensure that the precinct will be distinctively Gold Coast but it will make the difference between the community forming a strong bond with the cultural precinct or not finding it a part of their city.

So what next and where to from this stage? In the future there will be a Green Bridge for cyclists and pedestrians linking the precinct with Surfers Paradise, the Art Tower museum complex, a Performing Arts Centre and further development of the Artscape. But before that there will be the Virtual Exhibition about the Cultural Precinct opening in April. Stay tuned for some distinctively cultural Gold Coast and an insight into the latest cultural venture in our city.

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