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Village people: Metro Arts opens its new doors just in time to get festive

Culture

Metro Arts will officially cut the ribbon on its new premises at West End tonight, with the 40-year-old multi-arts organisation opening its doors just in time for this year’s Brisbane Festival.

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The purpose-built space at West Village features new facilities including the New Benner Theatre, exhibition galleries, two multipurpose studios and the Factory Lane outdoor precinct which encompasses the foyer, box office, café and bar.

“The space is all brand new but people are commenting that it is retaining some of that old feel of Edward Street Metro Arts and I think that’s because it’s this lovely mix of new facilities, an industrial feeling and also the historical, heritage-listed Peters ice cream building,” Metro Arts creative director and chief executive Jo Thomas told InQueensland.

“Our brand-new theatre is an underground 117-seat theatre, we have three new galleries – a small gallery, a large gallery and a window gallery – and we have a bar, a box office, an office, and two absolutely stunning rehearsal rooms, and everything is contained in one precinct so it’s like a brand-new cultural precinct here at West Village.

Metro Arts’ new theatre. (Photo: Jason Blight of Blight Rayner)

“We think it world-leading in that it is a cultural organisation in partnership with a major developer, but Sekisui absolutely believe in cultural placemaking and liveable spaces for people and they understand that arts and culture are a part of that, so we’re really happy to be here.”

As part of the Brisbane Festival program, which kicks off on Friday, the gallery will host the world premiere of Brainbow Magic, a fluorescent art installation by Japanese-Australian artist Hiromi Tango, which will shine a vibrant beacon across Metro Arts’ new Window Gallery and Gallery Two.

Brainbow Magic. (Photo: Supplied)

West Village’s The Common, which occupies the garden space outside Metro Arts, will also host Tango’s companion piece Rainbow Circles (Healing Circles), which is comprised of a collection of luminescent rainbow arches.

Other Brisbane Festival productions to be featured at Metro Arts include Michael Smith’s contemporary dance work Cowboy, which features an original score by Regurgitator’s Ben Ely (September 4-6); poet Anisa Nanduala’s How to Spell Love (September 17-20); spoken-word performance Future Ancestors (6 September) and Pink Matter’s all-female dance work, The Type (September 10-13).

“A lot of the works are free and they’re open a lot of the time, [interactive multimedia installation] Avoidable Perils is free and that’s all ages and it will run until the 19th of September every night Tuesday to Saturday free and it’s a lot of fun.

“All of the exhibitions are free and open a lot of the time so [Brisbane-based artist Robert Andrew’s] A Connective Reveal, Hiromi Tango’s work, and Sally Golding’s really fascinating exhibition, Assembly Now, will all be here.”

Thomas said Metro Arts would also be hosting “a bit of a housewarming event” on Sunday, which would give visitors the opportunity to explore the venue’s new spaces.

“We’ve also commissioned a number of artworks that will be on display through the space so if people are interested to look at that, it’s a great opportunity to pop in and have a drink at the bar.”

As InQueensland reported in April, Metro Arts finalised the sale of its heritage-listed, five-storey building at 109 Edward St in Brisbane’s CBD late last year and its programming had already been temporarily halted until September before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“If we had waited another six months, we probably wouldn’t have been able to sell that building and we would be in a very tricky financial situation right now,” Thomas said.

“But we’re so lucky to have done all of that and the money from the sale we kept in cash, so we didn’t lose it in investments immediately so that’s all been preserved. And now we’re able to roll out our Metro Arts Future Fund with all that money, we’ve got the new venue ready to roll and financially were in a pretty stable position, especially comparatively.”

In May, Thomas also took out two categories at the Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Awards, including the top gong.

Metro Arts creative director and chief executive Jo Thomas.

“It was completely unexpected, I didn’t expect to win my category for Purpose and Social Enterprise, let alone win Businesswoman of the Year, so it was a great boost,” she said.

“I think during this time, especially for the arts, we have been struggling to ensure that artists are being paid properly and the arts have been a bit forgotten by governments so it’s a great reminder that the arts are a business, and that we do take that side of what we do very seriously.

“We’re just like everyone else we can have mortgages and children and we need to pay bills so yeah and I think it just reinforced to me too that this has been a really great strategic business move for the organisation because it ensures our sustainability but also the sustainability for art and artists for hopefully at least another 40 years.”

Thomas said she was excited to welcome the public to the organisation’s new home and wanted to “reiterate that Metro is here for everyone”.

“We actually just had delivered this morning the 40-year history book of Metro Arts and there’s this lovely little quote in there about when Metro started operating over at Edward Street, saying the doors were always open for all and I reiterate that the doors are open to everyone.

“You may have to check in because of COVID but everyone is welcome to come down and really enjoy these great new facilities.”

For more information, visit the Metro Arts website.

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