Esk St ‘optimal site’ for art centre

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    Concept plans of the Invercargill City Council's proposed arts centre development for lower Esk St. Image: Supplied

    LOWER Esk St is the confirmed site for a new multi million-dollar arts centre development being proposed by the Invercargill City Council (ICC).

    Works and services director Cameron McIntosh said the 2068sqm section owned by the ICC in lower Esk St, also known as Esk St West, had been identified by Auckland-based strategic cultural consultants Tim Walker Associates as the optimal site for the art centre.

    Tim Walker Associates director Tim Walker said Esk St West was the ideal site because of its close proximity to two key streets, Dee and Esk Sts, the Invercargill Public Library and a car parking building.

    Also, for this concept to work, an outdoor civic space was needed where people could congregate and Wachner Pl provided that, he said.

    “[The arts centre] will have a really big transformative impact [on the CBD].”

    Mr McIntosh said developing a new inner city gallery in Invercargill’s CBD was identified in the Southland Regional Development Strategy as a priority to rejuvenate the inner city, but following public consultation through Art in the Heart it was determined something more was needed than an art gallery in the traditional sense.

    The facility would be a place where people could also take part in arts projects and see art being done.

    “It will be a social hub. In what we are proposing, the people are the most important thing. We want to make it a more active and engaging place.”

    The art centre concept incorporates art gallery spaces for the region’s collections, a performance art space, community meeting room, cafe, outdoor courtyard, children’s play area and a wet area for messy art, as well as a large-scale LED screen featuring on the building’s exterior.

    Mr McIntosh said the project was estimated to cost about $16 million. The ICC would provide $6.5m and it was anticipated the Ministry for Culture and Heritage would contribute $5.3m, with the remainder provided from trusts and the ACI Foundation, which would be established to raise the profile and funds for the facility. ACI is the working title for the development, standing for Arts + Creativity for Invercargill.

    The operating costs of ACI would be about $1m a year, 65% of which the ICC would fund and the remaining 35% funded through a user pays system for selected activities, he said.

    There were also plans to establish a separate dedicated centralised storage facility for the region’s various art and heritage collections to assist the many smaller art galleries in Southland struggling for funding to store and maintain their collections.

    Mr McIntosh said each group would continue to own their respective collections, but they would be stored in a centralised facility and the various groups could hold their exhibitions at ACI. “This would be a more co-ordinated approach so we get a better result [for everyone].”

    The centralised storage facility was a separate project being overseen by the Southland Regional Heritage Committee and, as yet, a site had not been identified, he said.

    The council had accepted the art centre proposal and it would go out for public consultation as part of the ICC’s long-term plan early next year.

    Construction was expected to start in 2020-21.

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