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Metro Arts still on the move after settling into new home

Culture

After navigating the move from its former premises in Brisbane’s CBD to its new home in West End last year, Metro Arts has unveiled its January to June program for what CEO Jo Thomas is envisioning as the organisation’s biggest year yet.

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Metro Arts reopened its doors to the public at West Village in September last year and chief executive and creative director Jo Thomas said the response from visitors so far had been overwhelmingly positive.

“There were a few – maybe a few more than a few – detractors who weren’t convinced about us leaving Edward St and moving to West End, but it’s gone incredibly well,” Thomas told InQueensland.

“People love the new spaces, they love the feel of them and there have been a lot of comments along the lines of, ‘oh, it still has the feel of the old Metro but everything here works’.

“We’ve been really lucky to be able to present a lot of performance work and exhibition work already and some really high-energy works at the end of last year that went really well.”

Metro Arts’ decision to move across the river resulted in the establishment of West End’s first live theatre in more than 25 years and Thomas said she was excited to be a part of helping re-establish the area as one of Brisbane’s foremost cultural hubs.

“It’s definitely a growing hub here,” she said. “We have all the other galleries around here, some of the artist-run initiatives are here, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to Queensland Theatre, GOMA, the museum and South Bank and the more walking tours and connections we can create between all of those cultural institutions, the better it’s going to be.”

Female creatives will kick off the 2021 season, with Playlab Theatre’s Rising debuting next month, swiftly followed by a trio of works from the newly formed Hive Collective, showcasing some of Australia’s most daring female playwrights and creatives.

In May, Ashleigh Musk and Michael Smith will present their groundbreaking participatory performance piece, Fertile Ground, followed by Catarina Hebbard directing Alice Birch’s international hit, Anatomy of a Suicide.

Metro Arts’ gallery spaces will also be showcasing a constantly revolving, free program of visual art exhibitions and installations.

“We now have the three spaces, so we have the window gallery, Gallery One – which is our main space – and then Gallery Two

“I am really looking forward to a lot of the solo exhibitions – David Attwood has a wonderful one in March featuring Garfield, which is called The Last Bastion of Laziness.

Garfield will feature in David Attwood’s exhibition The Last Bastion of Laziness.

“Spencer Harvie’s doing his first solo exhibition – Dungeon Master – with us in April, as well. He did an exhibition with us with another artist a number of years ago back at Edward St, so it’s great to have him back with us.”

In March CTRL + ALT +DEL: Shift will feature, continuing a series of exhibitions aimed at uniting First Nations, Pasifika and culturally diverse creatives.

Metro Arts will also be hosting several key artist-run initiatives (ARIs) across its galleries including Outer Space, STABLE and Nextdoor, alongside Old Haunts by ANTHEM, which will work to elevate the voices of culturally diverse artists.

At the same time, two dedicated satellite venues – Norman Park Substation and Teneriffe’s Ferryman’s Hut – will provide space for seven artists in residence to develop and experiment with their practice.

Following their 2020 season of The Type at Metro Arts, the all-female dance collective Pink Matter will be Metro Arts’ Company in Residence for 2021.

Director and choreographer Wanida Serce of Pink Matter, who will be an artist in residence at Metro Arts.

“I’m very excited that we’ve got Pink Matter as our Company in Residence for 2021, because these are artists who are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a contemporary dancer in Australia.”

Polytoxic will also be back to create new performance works, as will Kristen Maloney, Eve Klein and Ravi Glasser-Vora.

“I’m excited for May in particular when we’ll have MAD Dance Festival and also BAD (Brisbane Art Design) at the same time,” Thomas said. “It will be a fantastic showcase of all that Metro does – performance with street and elite dance, art, design, public art and public workshops and more.

“It’s going to be phenomenal because it’s bringing street dance into our cultural institution and it’s going to be fantastic to give these artists, who are often more on the fringe, the opportunity to be placed firmly in the public’s sight and we know people love this kind of dance so it’s going to be a heap of fun.”

Metro Arts has had a long history of elevating the work of First Nations artists and Thomas said it was a commitment that remained one of the organisation’s primary considerations.

“Metro Arts been working with First Nations artists since the very beginning,” she said. “Our very first exhibition when we opened the doors at Edward St 40 years ago was Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s work and we’re very committed to First Nations artists, particularly artists from Queensland, because the work is outstanding.

CTRL + ALT +DEL: Shift, a, continuing a series of exhibitions aimed at uniting First Nations, Pasifika and culturally diverse creatives, will feature at Metro Arts.

 

“When I talk about the importance of accessibility here at West Village, our new home, it’s not just accessibility for artists and audience of disability, but it’s also for artists from different cultural backgrounds and ensuring that they feel comfortable and they feel welcome.

“We have worked a little bit in the past with Conscious Mic [a collective of artists, creative producers and cultural practitioners] – they were part of our opening festival in September last year and they’re coming in to do some more great work and it’s artist-led, so they’re doing all of the curation, which will ensure it’s all culturally safe and sensitive.

“Later in the year we’ve Warraba Weatherall, another fantastic First Nations artist, and he’ll be doing his second major solo exhibition with us.”

As for what Metro Arts has planned for the remainder of the year, Thomas was remaining tight-lipped, but said the organisation was planning to host events as part of Brisbane Festival again in September.

“We’re looking forward to renewing our partnership with Brisbane Festival for 2021, so, that will be another major festival outing, and we also have the return of a firm favourite from 2020, which I know will go off.

“We are also working on a major international collaboration for a very important exhibition.”

Visit the Metro Arts website for more details about the 2021 season.

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